Leadership Out of Nothing


Thirty spokes share the wheel’s hub;
It is the center hole that makes it useful.
Shape clay into a vessel;
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes which make it useful.
Therefore profit comes from what is there;
Usefulness from what is not there.

~ Lao Tzu

Some leaders focus on filling space.

Breaking every silence with words.

Filling every gap with information.

Closing every question with answers.

Concerned with being noticed.

Seeking profit from what it there.

Some leaders see it differently.

They recognize the usefulness of space.

And seek to create space.

They do not fear the silence.

Or the waiting.

Because space is where everything happens.

A healthy and productive organization depends on space.

Space for learning

Space for contributing

Space for creating

Space for playing

Space for connecting

Space for understanding

Space for healing

Space for imagining

Space for debating

Space for celebrating

Creating space requires our intention.

Otherwise, space is filled with whatever captures our attention in the moment. Trivial, busy and urgent sounding matters that leave no room for other possibilities to emerge.

All leaders have the tools available to create space.

Silence – creating quiet space to observe and listen and for others to contribute and learn.

Time – creating schedule space for activity that supports individual and organizational health and development.

Choice – creating open space for innovation by supporting diverse opinions and valuing creative ideas.

Trust – creating growth space through a leadership style that supports empowerment and autonomy.

Connection – creating relationship space by modeling and encouraging efforts toward communication and understanding.

Resources – creating productive space by providing the tools and information that enable success.

This list represents just a few examples. There are many daily interactions and decisions that present the opportunity to create space that leads to better results.

The challenge is to see the inherent usefulness of space and to hold that space for yourself and the organization. This may mean resisting the impulse to intervene, making allowance for a difference of opinion or providing a clear boundary around the team so that they can focus on the work.

Effective leaders master the skill of making something out of nothing.


    1. Thank you, I’m so glad you found it helpful. To say it provoked thought is the highest of compliments.


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