Leadership By Example and Command By Intent: A Modern Approach to Corporate Leadership

Today, let’s dive into a subject that’s often talked about but not as frequently mastered: leadership. If you’ve worked in a Fortune 500 company—or any organization for that matter—you know how impactful good leadership can be. Now, I’m not here to give you a run-of-the-mill leadership 101 guide; instead, I want to discuss two incredibly relevant strategies that can make waves in the modern workplace: “Leadership by Example” and “Command by Intent.”

Leadership By Example: The Only Way to Earn Real Respect

First things first. What do we mean by “Leadership by Example?” It’s not just a catchphrase. This approach is grounded in the philosophy that actions speak louder than words. Imagine being part of a team where your leader isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty, tackles challenges head-on, and doesn’t shy away from the grunt work. That’s the kind of leadership that makes you want to up your game, right?

Why It Works

  1. Authenticity: It’s much easier to follow someone who’s actually walking the walk instead of just talking the talk. Authentic leaders are like magnets for respect and loyalty.
  2. Accountability: When a leader is directly involved, it promotes a culture of accountability. The team knows that the leader wouldn’t ask them to do something they wouldn’t do themselves.
  3. Team Morale: Trust me, nothing boosts team spirit like a leader who rolls up their sleeves and jumps into the trenches.

The Modern Context

Here’s the kicker: In a tech-centric, rapidly evolving work environment where remote work is commonplace, the conventional leadership norms are getting flipped on their head. We’re all juggling Zoom calls, agile sprints, and Git merges. Leadership by Example in this context might mean a lead engineer who actively participates in code reviews, or perhaps helps debug a gnarly issue that’s been bugging the team for weeks. It’s a more dynamic, inclusive form of leadership that makes everyone feel like they’re part of something meaningful.

Command by Intent: Empowering Teams to Own Their Decisions

Now, let’s move on to the second pillar of our leadership utopia: “Command by Intent.” This one’s rooted in military strategy but don’t let that intimidate you. It’s basically a way of decentralizing decision-making.

The Fundamentals

  1. Clear Objectives: The leader sets a clear, overarching objective. This is the “Intent.”
  2. Freedom to Execute: Team members are given the liberty to decide on the best course of action to achieve that objective. They “Command” themselves, so to speak.
  3. Fluid Communication: There is an open channel for feedback and adjustments, making the approach adaptive and resilient.

Why It’s Brilliant

  1. Agility: Especially in software development cycles, plans can change faster than you can say “Scrum Master.” With Command by Intent, your team can adapt without waiting for top-down instructions.
  2. Empowerment: This isn’t just good for morale; it’s also great for productivity. When people feel ownership, they invest more energy and creativity into their tasks.
  3. Expertise Utilization: Let’s face it, the front-line team members often have a more intimate understanding of the details than the upper management. This approach taps into that expertise.

How It Syncs With Modern Work Culture

In a culture that champions innovation and autonomy, Command by Intent is like a breath of fresh air. It’s not the kind of strategy that will make you look good in quarterly reports and then fizzle out; it’s designed for the long haul. Plus, it’s super in line with agile methodologies and other modern project management approaches. Trust your team’s expertise, give them the room to maneuver, and you’ll be amazed by the results.

The Symbiosis: Where Leadership by Example Meets Command by Intent

Now, what happens when these two strategies are implemented in tandem? Magic, that’s what.

  • Enhanced Trust: Your team doesn’t just see you as a figurehead; they see you as one of them. This makes them more receptive to your overarching objectives.
  • Effective Communication: When you lead by example, your team is more likely to believe in your intent and command themselves accordingly.
  • Continuous Improvement: Both approaches are self-reinforcing. Your example encourages individual growth, while Command by Intent gives you, the leader, valuable insights into your team’s capabilities and new strategies.


In a nutshell, Leadership by Example and Command by Intent aren’t just methodologies; they’re philosophies that can infuse your team with trust, agility, and a sense of purpose. And let’s be real, in today’s fast-paced work culture, you need all the firepower you can get to stay ahead. So, why not give it a shot? Lead by doing, empower your team, and set the stage for some truly groundbreaking work.

Till next time, keep leading like you mean it!


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