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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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