The conversation on leadership intentions sparked good conversations. Samantha Hall asked a key question about how we can really evaluate our intentions accurately and honestly, and Alli Polin posed a key point on what happens if an intention is good but the action is not. In other words, what happens when intentions don’t match?

Samantha’s comments resulted in my post on Lead Change – How Do You Check Your Leadership Intentions? – and All’s comment instigated this post on actions and intentions.

The crux of the matter is impact. However our leadership intentions and actions come together, there is a resulting impact from the combination.

Thinking through this question and point seemed like a ripe opportunity for a two by two matrix (one of my favorite ways to analyze a concept, challenge, or question!).

The Impact of Leadership Intention and Action Alignment

Intentions and Actions

Remove. When intentions and actions are harmful, the actions are clear:

  • If you are someone in this quadrant, remove yourself from the organization. Find a new job. Find a new team. Better leaders exist; find them.
  • If you are the leader delivering this harmful combination, you are not a leader. Change your ways or you will be a very lonely individual, likely in jail or sidelined permanently.

No one wants to work in this quadrant, and these are the worst type of individuals who disguise or call themselves leaders.

Always have money set aside for these occasions. When you need to walk away and not look back, having the money to survive is essential. Some recommend having savings for six months of living expenses to make these transitions. Do this so you can make the transition to work in a more engaging, positive culture if you need to.

Doubt. When intentions are harmful and actions are heathy, the resulting impact is likely doubt. If we understand what a person’s intentions are and they are harmful, then any “positive” action will be viewed in distrust. We will question motives and be very hesitant to engage fully.

If possible, try to erase your doubt about the person’s true intentions. Ask questions to gain insight and observe their behaviors in other situations.

Confusion. When intentions are healthy yet actions are harmful, the resulting impact is confusion. We will begin to question why the individual is taking these actions and red flags are raised to the leader’s true intentions. Trust will erode if the action goes unchecked or unquestioned.

Ask questions like “If your intention is to collaborate effectively, your action of dominating the conversations is making everyone confused and disengaged.” Try to clarify.

Empower. With heathy intentions and actions, we feel fully alive in the work we are doing. Trust is in full bloom. The art of possibility is open along with crafting creative solutions to problems and challenges.

A positive environment is the result, along with highly engaged people. Take note of what is working and embrace it fully, protecting it from slipping into one of the other quadrants while fostering further growth in what is working.

Fine Line: Lead in Trust, Flounder in Distrust

The mismatch of intentions and actions raise two significant points:

  1. You have a 1 in 4 chance of getting it right. If your healthy intentions and actions don’t match, the results will be turnover, confusion, and doubt. Your business will ultimately fail.
  2. Build trust in all you do and ensure your intentions and actions construct healthy partnerships, transparent actions, and fully engaged teams.

Leaders can slip up quickly and the resulting impact is big. Much is at stake. Being a trusted leader is key to healthy intentions and actions.

As leaders:

  • If your intentions are misaligned, you create confusion and doubt.
  • If your intentions and actions are harmful, you damage relationships, reputation, and integrity.
  • Trust is in the balance. Healthy organizational cultures are challenging to build and easy to destroy.

Step up to your leadership intentions and always, always raise your standard of leading.

Just look at what happens if we don’t lead with healthy intentions and actions. Distrust invades like a cancer.

Distrust Invades


As Ted Coiné and Mark Babbitt point out in A World Gone Social, we are leading in a Social Age. Our teams expect more from our leaders. Our times create intriguing opportunities that require sound leadership skills and principles. When leaders slip, trust will erode at the speed of social conversation and interaction.

Our leadership challenge is clear. Lead with healthy intentions and actions. Lead to build trust. Yes, we may slip-up at times but we need to correct quickly. Leaders need to own their errors and missteps and return to healthy, trust-filled leadership intentions and actions.

How do you keep your actions aligned with your healthy intentions?