Who has shown you what leadership looks like?
A few years ago, I was reading about how some people of faith integrate their religion’s stories with the most current findings and theories of science. I remember being struck by one description—I think it was Jewish—of God withdrawing so that creation had space to emerge.
Leadership can be like that sometimes.
When you decide to stop overfunctioning, you create space for others to start functioning. If you’ve had a central role in the system you’re in, your choice to change gives the entire system an opportunity to reset.
Our private flashes of insight aren’t accessible to other people, but others can perceive and adapt to the way we act and respond. In the classic book The Dance of Anger, Harriet Lerner explains that one person in a dancing dyad can change everything by changing themselves. It isn’t necessary to change the other, because when we’re connected, changing ourselves changes the context we share with others and that changed context invites the other to adapt with us.
Being human means being responsive to our environments and to each other (not being responsive literally means being dead). The good news for over-functioners is that others’ adaptation is their responsibility, and our adaptation is ours. When we choose to adapt by yielding space so that others can step up, we create an environment in which others can develop new skills they’d never otherwise have had room to develop.
In your own contexts, consider how you can lead by pulling back or yielding space. How can you shift the space so that others have more room to contribute? Notice when your groups might benefit from you listening more. Where might you need to make more room for others? Where might you need others to make more room for you?