The Importance of Giving Space in Leadership

A leader can create space by inviting others to lead and respond, or by simply stepping out of the way after asking an open ended question and inviting feedback and discussion.
A leader can create space by inviting others to lead and respond, or by simply stepping out of the way after asking an open ended question and inviting feedback and discussion.

When I started this blog, I never claimed that I was an expert. I still don’t. I view this more as a vehicle and means to join the larger conversation here, across social media, and in other settings. What I share in this blog are ideas, questions, and observations. Today, is another such example.

In serving in my different leadership roles I have discovered something imperative. I, as a leader, need to provide space. My sense is, that this need for leaders to provide space is something that is likely a universal need. What this space looks like largely depends on the context and situation. But three ways that a leader needs to provide space are:

  • For questions
  • For other leaders to grow
  • For emotional wrestling, honesty and growth

I have seen these needs in academic, for-profit, non-profit, and congregational settings. They probably also exist in families and all types of communities too. Perhaps one example might make the point.

Last week I had planned rehearsal for the couple different music ensembles that I am currently directing and leading. I think the plans were all in good shape. Then I had a conversation with a fellow leader who informed me that they had heard some anxiety from some people about what might happen after I transition out and leave my current interim capacity. I suspected the anxiety might exist but I had not yet heard it. So, in order to give room for it, I decided to adjust my rehearsal plans. Towards the end of each ensemble’s rehearsals I decided that we would have some intentional space for conversations. I wanted to leave room for questions, honesty, and even some emotional wrestling.

The groups had some great and important questions. There weren’t necessarily easy answers, but it was important to be transparent and to give these fellow leaders and group members space to think, reflect and be in conversation. I hope they appreciated this process as much as I do. I saw a lot of growth. In these spaces and conversation with one another, there is often a chance to see others grow in their ability to lead and be a part of a team.

Leaving space like this does a number of things.

Space and conversation space builds trust among people, leaders and participants. It shows that how they are feeling, what they are sensing, thinking and hoping for matters. It demonstrates respect.

Space also creates room for collaboration. If there isn’t opportunity and intention for dialogue, there is little hope for collaboration and team work.

Space also creates room for others to stand up in and lead. It provides an opportunity for another person to take a risk to lead, but it also provides the encouragement of the one leading to create the space that its more than okay, in fact its desired that another person might step up and share what they are sensing.

How do you provide space? How has giving or having space impacted your leadership?

Image Credit: Leader creating space

2 comments on “The Importance of Giving Space in Leadership”

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