A leader fills the spaces


There are questions that can make you think and there are questions that can help you to take action. The question “What would a leader do?” is a thinking and an acting question. It worked for me, helping me to think through action on a tough decision.

In 2011 when our state chapter of coaches was looking ahead to 2012 and a new board chairperson, the chair-elect became severely ill. The board (of which I was a member) needed someone to take her place in the upcoming year.

There I was, with years of experience and a founding board member serving on the board at that time. I knew the effort and time I would need to put into chairing the board, and decided to let someone else step up to take the position.

The chapter chair is a volunteer position that would take passion, energy, and time. Some part of me may have known that I needed to step up but it was buried deep below the business of keeping my paying work growing and viable. Yet there wasn’t anyone else stepping up to take the position. I remained resistant until the question, “what would a leader do” shook me up.

It’s now one of my favorite questions to ask myself and to ask my clients when a decision isn’t clear to them.

A leader notices and fills the spaces around them in:

Leadership: Where does your project, organization, or company have a void in leadership? What’s lying fallow or isn’t moving in the right direction that could use your guidance? The best leaders are the ones who see what needs to be done and step in to get it going.

Relationships: What relationships need healing? What relationships require a beginning or an ending? A leader would notice the relationships that are in need of uplifting or repair. A leader would then reach out to all interested and involved parties to assure that these connections are placed back on a strong foundation.

Ethics: What common sense ethics are being ignored? Where is integrity lacking? A leader would be the first to speak up about what they notice, and the first to take whatever action is needed for the offenders to realize that they are off track. A leader will then steer them in the right direction and assure that the situation(s) are improved.

Suffering: Who is suffering? What steps will you take to reach out to them? Silent suffering happens in a myriad of ways in our organizations. It doesn’t always jump up and down and shout that it needs help. A leader notices when suffering occurs and is willing to turn toward it, helping those who are hurting and removing the barriers to healing.

What spaces exist in your organization? A leader notices the spaces that need filling and then they take action to assure that they are filled.


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Mary Jo Asmus is the founder and President of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC, an executive coach, writer, internationally recognized thought leader, and a consultant who partners with organizations of all kinds to develop and administer coaching programs. She has “walked in your shoes” as a former leader in a Fortune company.


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