Combining Leadership Character and Intent – The Path to Psychological Safety

Leadership has many aspects, not least of which involves having the right “character” for the mission at hand. Character, we are told, fundamentally shapes how we engage within our world. It encapsulates what we observe and see. What we value, our ethics, virtues and principles. It informs who we decide to interact with and how. Character is what frames our choices and decisions. Action follows how we think about things as part of our character. When people work with us long enough, leadership character is a great determining factor on whether they decide to follow.

To achieve psychological safety in the workplace there are specific positive leadership characteristics that must be focused on which are highlighted during training, to maximize the prospect of success.

Intent the Hallmark of Integrity

One of the most critical facets of character enabling psychological safety is the workplace is the intent of the leader. This is because all leaders will be tested in numerous ways, both to establish their reliability and level of commitment to what they say they believe in.

During leadership training,including the intent of the leader, the importance of being truthful with why we are doing something is stressed. This is the first step. Clarity on intent acts as a true course compass in setting subsequent goals, as well as steering us during the inevitable challenges that will arise in the areas of equality, diversity and inclusion. The leader must always begin with intention and return to it multiple times to check actions are always aligned to it. Once established it is a perpetual leadership cycle that over time engenders credibility and trust.

Giving Ownership with Accountability

Articulating intent goes beyond setting goals. It has underpinnings of aspirational endeavour. It is a potent force. The focus shifts from process to outcomes. The “why” of doing something that is important takes centre stage in discussions as the only path to meaningful progress. Sharing core intent encourages people to compromise and accommodate in the interests of the greater good.

Shared intention within the team highlights the vision of the shared aim for change. During discussions on psychological safety we can create greater insights into why achieving a sense of belonging is beneficial for all. Because Intent-based leadership is about designing an environment where people give to each other more unconditionally, they feel valued. It also helps to develop understanding into how everyone can fit into the broader organization. Greater understanding of their roles and objectives instils pride in their work and unique contribution. Though intent based leadership training enhances psychological safety,increasingly everyone feels inspired, motivated and keen to take responsibility for their actions. This obviously unlocks not previously conceived potential. 

Intent Revisited

Advocates of intent based leadership highlight character traits that such leaders who have this quality generally display. These include: Humility; Integrity; Collaboration; Justice; Courage; Temperance; Accountability; Humanity and Transcendence. All of these are critical to safeguarding psychological safety in the workplace. Leadership training therefore is a connecting process.

A Buddhist saying is worth reflecting on in terms of our leadership character and journey towards sustaining psychological safety for all – “Be mindful of intention. Intention is the seed that creates our future”. With pure intent so much more becomes possible.