Great Leaders Leave Space For Others

Leaders need to be aware of the influence their presence has on a group. Just by showing up, leaders can disempower those they hope will step up and lead. Great leaders step back so others can step up. 

At a conference I mingled and talked casually with leaders from different organizations. And then The Big Leader walked into the room. Something odd happened. All the focus, all the energy, and all attention moved to the Big Leader. His presence filled all the space in the room.

Even though The Big Leader didn’t do anything intentionally, the rest of us stepped back and deferred to him – listening to what he had to say, watching his interactions, and taking the lead from him.

You may not be the The Big Leader in your setting, but you have authority and thus take up space of those around you that you intend for others to fill.

Great Leaders Leave Space For Others

You influence those around you by your presence. Great leaders leave space for others to talk, decide and lead.

  1. Leave space in discussions. If you stand at the white board holding the marker or facilitate the discussion you will fill most of the space in the discussion. Let someone else do those things. Keep your comments to a minimum. Wait to allow others to express themselves first. Be curious by asking questions rather than making statements.
  2. Leave space in decision making. When you delegate a decision and then give “input” to be considered in the decision, you’ve just filled the decision space with your influence. If you delegate a decision, don’t take it back. And don’t let the person bring it back to you. Responsibility and decision making go hand-in-hand.
  3. Leave space to lead. I remember a leader sharing his strategy to be intentionally absent. While he was around everyone looked to him. So, he would accept a speaking engagement somewhere, intentionally causing his team to have to step up and lead in his absence. And when he got back, he didn’t correct things to match his preferences. Otherwise, it would teach people not to lead, but to do what he wanted them to do.

Help others to step up and take responsibility by stepping back to leave space for them.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

    Keith is President of Creative Results Management. He helps busy leaders multiply their impact. Keith is the author of several books including The COACH Model for Christian Leaders.

    Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. You own your comments but give me permission to use them. See My Comments Policy. Read my Permissions Policy to know how you can use my posts.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    4 thoughts on “Great Leaders Leave Space For Others

    1. Some very good insights here I think. I am currently involved in some work that a leader displays the traits that you mention in your article. I think also this may be more prevalent when a new leader comes into an organisation and who has been tasked to “shake things up”. You would hope though that the leader has the self awareness to ‘back off’ once he has the confidence that his team are responding to a new direction?

      • Andy, it’s difficult for leaders. We got things done by doing it ourselves. Then we move into leadership and continue to behave the same ways, rather than backing off and empowering others to get things done. The title of Marshall Goldsmith’s book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, describes this problem. For other leaders, the problem is they feel a measure of control and want to maintain that, or it’s a lack of understanding of the effects of their work style (they think they’re helping), or lack of self-awareness, or lack of team experience, trust, etc. etc.

        The best way to help a leader develop the capacity to let others lead is to do your responsibilities well. In interacting with the leader think, “yes, and…”. Make it clear you’re on board with the direction, and demonstrate that you want to make it happen. Many times awareness of their leadership style only comes with time or more senior mentor telling them. In the meantime, what are you learning about leadership that you want to practice?