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Leadership & The Act of Will: Part 1

This is the first in a series of five blog articles on the act of will.  The act of will is the art of figuring out what to do and getting it done.  All leaders, ultimately, have to get things done and this is why it’s so helpful for them to understand that the act of will is a process with six stages.

The act of will is not just a matter of deciding or choosing, as some people think.  There is more to it than that.  Roberto Assagioli outlined the six stages of the act of will in his book, The Act of Will nearly fifty years ago.  His six stages were:

1.  Purpose (or aim or goal)/evaluation/motivation/intent

2.  Deliberation

3.  Choice and decision

4.  Strengthening faith/conviction/certainty

5.  Planning

6.  Directing the execution

Before explaining them, I’d like to make two points:

Not Every Stage Is Needed

Not every act of will follows these stages consciously – or needs to follow them – because your aims or problems may not demand such thoroughness, perhaps because what you’re aiming to do is so simple or familiar.

What he outlined was a model of complete, purposeful action because some important acts of will demand careful thought and step-by-step execution.

Not Every Stage Is Equally Important

The six stages aren’t equally important in every act of will.

One act of will may demand close attention to one stage and hardly any to the others.  Another may stress different stages.

So for example, a student leaving university may have to spend much time pondering her career goals and deliberating on the alternatives.  After that, the decision may come easily and assuming her choice fits her talents and values well, she may have no doubts over her ability to reach her goal – meaning the faith/conviction/certainty stage would need no attention.  Perhaps she will spend some time on working up a plan, but not use much energy on directing herself as she’s so motivated.

A top professional tennis player, on the other hand, may have a clear goal to win Wimbledon and spend no time on deliberation and making a choice, nor have difficulty in working out a plan or sticking to it.  But he may doubt his ability to reach this prize, in which case working on faith, conviction and certainty would be the key for him.

Next, in part 2, we’ll look at the first of Assagioli’s six stages of the Act of Will: Purpose/Aim/Goal.


James ScoullerThe author is James Scouller, an executive coach.  His book, The Three Levels of Leadership: How to Develop Your Leadership Presence, Knowhow and Skill, was published in May 2011.  You can learn more about it at  If you want to see its reviews, click here: leadership book reviews.  If you want to know where to buy it, click HERE.  You can read more about his executive coaching services at The Scouller Partnership’s website.

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