You need to create space if you are to grow as a leader

2 minute read

We are the first generation in 1,000 generations that, rather than having the need to fill space, have the need to create space

Sian Harrington

Create space to think

Will you read this story then move straight onto the next, and then the next? Will you even have time to click on it and get further than this opening paragraph? Or are you reading it on your mobile as you grab a quick sandwich, in the two minutes you have before yet another meeting or as you walk to work from the train station? (NB not recommended for safety reasons).

Wherever you are reading this I bet I can guarantee one thing: you will not have time to sit back and reflect on it. To see how any lessons may relate to your role and your organisation in the wider sense. To take the opportunity to explore and be curious, to clarify your thinking and reflect on recent decisions. Or to connect with others, share and live in the moment. Because you, like everyone else, are so busy, so overwhelmed and exhausted that you just do not have the luxury of giving yourself some space.

Creating space is vital for unlocking optimal personal performance and development. According to leadership consultant and business psychologist Derek Draper, an analysis of 1,000 random reports written in the past five years on leaders in every region, the issue of ‘space’ is apparent across all types of business, culture and senior leadership level. Nearly all, 93%, had a development need that related to creating space in some form or other. Some 75% of global executives need to create more space to connect, nearly half to think and a third to do.

On the back of his work with 20 FTSE 100 companies and large organisations across the world, Draper has developed a Creating Space model based around four overarching dimensions:

Space to Think – having the intellectual and psychic freedom to think in a deep way about yourself and the world

Space to Connect – having the emotional capacity to share what you have to offer with others and accept what they have to offer you

Space to Do – prioritising and then having a productive impact on the world

Space to Be – stepping back and ensuring you are building the kind of life you really want to have

“A leader who hasn’t created such space for herself will be operating in a way that is primarily about responding to what is happening around her,” explains Draper. “She will be working hard but in a way shaped by externalities, not herself. She will feel she has little or no space and is far from being in command of her own life.”

Leaders who consistently create space, however, take decisive control over their working lives. And while time and energy do have an impact on this, Draper argues this is primarily a state of mind.

Published 11 July 2018, updated 10 September 2018
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