Filling The Leadership Vacuum

Paul Heagen Purposeful Leadership & Living Leave a Comment

horror vacui

Nature abhors a vacuum.

The physics around filling an atmospheric void gives us thunder, wind, keeps dentists and surgeons tidy, and has gratefully displaced brooms in favor of Dirt Devils and Dysons.

Vacuum can work for you.

Including at your next management team meeting.

In human psychology, we have an arousal quotient or requirement, which fuels an appetite for stimulus — intellectual, emotional, physical or spiritual. The fury and ferocity of our jacked-up, stimulus saturated world has doomed silence to be seen as evidence of indecision or incompetence.

When a question is asked or an issue posed in a meeting, how instinctive is it for the leader of the team to quickly address it?   That may slake a bias toward efficiency, but it brings the concomitant result of filling the void, filling the space, relieving the “vacuum.”

In purely physical terms, when we overfill that space, it takes more pressure, more energy, for others to speak up or weigh in on the matter. In meteorological parlance, it is the dome of high pressure that pushes out everything else.

Instead, when we create and tolerate a “vacuum” at such times, we give space for others to fill — with their ideas, their questions, their more honest sentiments, their own energy. Creating space demands a savvy to ask good questions and the patience to embrace what first might be silence. It’s worth the wait.

Certainly there is time for clear, brisk direction; much of leadership is about presence. However, often the presence needed is to create the leadership atmosphere that invites people to fill the space that is too often left to you alone.

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