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Leadership & The Act of Will: Part 5

This is the last in a series of five blog articles on the act of will (to return to the first in the series click here).

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

In this article, we’ll look at the fifth and sixth stages: Planning and Directing the Execution.

Stage 5: Planning

Now you need a plan.  First, you’ll need to consider your starting point and pressures from any other goals you’re working towards.

With an especially complex or demanding goal you may have to consider alternative means of execution, their different phases and timings, and the money and support you’ll need from other people.

Here, the will can draw on the imagination to envisage different ways of achieving the plan before you assess the pros and cons and decide which make most sense.  In other words, you may have to go through a second stage of “choice and decision”.

It’s also important to consider in advance what may go wrong and how you’d respond if it did.

Finally, this is where you look at yourself and ask, “What habits do I have that may sabotage what I’m trying to achieve here… and what will I do about them?”

Stage 6: Directing the Execution

This is not the same as carrying out the plan; it’s directing it.

So the will directs execution by skilfully combining the powers of the mind, including its partner in the act of will, the imagination.  Thus, it orchestrates your intuition, thinking and imagining plus the way you use your feelings and body sensations to communicate, connect with and influence others.

Direction includes (a) nudging the intellect to check the plan is on track; (b) ensuring problem-solving happens when it needs to; (c) adapting to new circumstances; and (d) discerning whether surprise events demand a change of plan.

You could liken the will to the conductor of an orchestra.  It’s not playing any of the instruments, but it’s having an effect on what music the orchestra plays and how it sounds.

That concludes this short series on the act of will.  I hope you found it useful.


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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