The other day I was helping a CEO of a global retail brand get to grips with how he ought to be when presenting to the board – to speak and lead with intent.

It was an important presentation – he was about to put forward his ideas for the business over the coming 5 years. His plan I guess. He had worked out what he was going to say. He’d even worked out the how. I asked him one simple question:

“Who are you going to be?”

“I’m going to be me. Deon, don’t be ridiculous.”

I didn’t take offence, we’d been working together for a few months.

“So Jonathan, who are you going to be? Give me 3 words that describe how you will show up, when presenting to the board?”

“Aha.” Came the reply.

“I see what you mean. I want to be credible, clear and concise and on the money.”

“That’s not 3 words. What does “on the money” mean in relation to how you will be?”


What he discovered were three words that motivated him to speak and lead in a particular way. Essentially be when he was talking to the board.

We over-complicate things…

Leadership is seen as a complex endeavour. All-consuming. It doesn’t have to be. If we lead with intent  (with purpose) and we trust our intention – who we are in each moment. Then we cultivate a way of living – a way of leading that is meaningful for us and the people we lead.

Learning from my 7-year-old playing the other day…

William wanted to play “dress-up”. He was a pirate. He asked me to join in.

I instantly suggested we need a ship, a map and pirate clothes etc. And I needed to know who was playing who – what were our names. I guess, I establishing who was who in our little pecking order. William turned to me and said, “dad just play.”

I was over complicating things. Packing in too much. I think we do this with leadership.

Don’t take my word for it…

Go to and search for the word “leadership.” More than 180,000 entries will come up.

Some believe that to be a successful leader, you need to find the magical keys, take the right steps, follow the proper laws, figure out the dysfunctions, embrace the challenge, ascend the levels or discover the ancient wisdom. In other words, over complicate things.

What if successful leadership isn’t really that complicated?

If I were to distil leadership into one word — not a title, power or position — that determines whether people follow a leader? It has to be…trust. It’s the foundation of any successful, healthy and thriving relationship.

Without trust, leadership is doomed. Creativity is stifled, innovation grinds to a halt, and reasoned risk-taking is abandoned. Without trust, your teams check in their hearts and minds at the door, leaving managers with staff who have quit mentally and emotionally but stayed on the payroll, sucking precious resources from the organisation.

Trust simultaneously acts as the bonding agent that holds everything together and as the lubricant that keeps things moving smoothly. Stephen M.R. Covey, author of “Speed of Trust,” said that while high trust won’t necessarily rescue a poor strategy, low trust will almost always derail a good one. What happens if all leadership is, is to have the intention (the purpose) to trust and be trusted.

Back to the “dress-up” game…

In the case of William and I playing pirates, the requirement was obvious – to play – our purpose was simple. Trust how we both were being in the game. I unfortunately, was playing what I think I should’ve played.

I stopped, and trusted my intent to just play. We built an understanding of our roles – who would be who. Whether we needed certain clothing and all the other pirate paraphernalia was superfluous. Of course they may help us play the roles. But it wasn’t necessary.

What was required, was a belief in who I was. Owning our truth.

We are not the sum of our thinking. I totally disagree with the line, “I think therefore I am.” When we are in our truth, not our thoughts and feelings. When we give voice to our senses – when we be, then we live our truth.

Then we build real trust-fueled relationships. We lead and live with purpose.


Listen to the ‘Intent for Purposeful Living‘ podcast HERE

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