Photo by Kamil Pietrzak on Unsplash

Leader, It’s Time To Jump

The transition from leadership to leaderspace

Laust Lauridsen, MD
6 min readOct 15, 2022


Traditional leadership is challenged. Getting people onboard, setting the course, and steering the ship safely to a determined destination has been a successful metaphor for many years. On one side managing resources, on the other directing people. Clear roles and responsibilities, captain and crew, leader and follower. All in good order. These days could soon be over.

Tech and web have changed the game. New opportunities, demands and priorities disrupt old patterns and create new conditions. We can work from anywhere and are not as often in the office as we used to. Here, in the early days of digitalized business and hybrid work, there seem to be more systems to manage than people to lead. We are increasingly self-led and no longer dependent on a boss or locked in an organizational grid.

New ways of leading are evolving. Fast-paced start-ups and agile companies have no or little enthusiasm for classical leadership. It is perceived as both complicated and boring. Too much talk and too little action. When the top guys engage in local decision-making, things tend to slow down. The future requires something less controlling and more liberating.

From ship to space

The leadership metaphor is linear. The purpose is to generate value by following the planned route of the project. Moving from A to B as smooth as possible. The focus is on progress, performance and achievement. The leader has the decision power. There is a logic of command and control in which tasks are delegated, not responsibilities. The rule is to keep the course and speed if nothing else is decided. The world of my leadership.

The metaphor of leaderspace is circular. It is like breathing, the universal movement of in and out, contraction and expansion. Power is distributed, and everyone plays a role in sustaining the space. Mutual trust and psychological safety characterize the atmosphere. No negative stories or hidden agendas limit the flow of information and exchange of knowledge. The world of our leaderspace.

The two worlds are totally different. To leave leadership and jump into leaderspace is a bold move. It takes courage to replace the known with the unknown and swap the illusion of control with the thrill of participation. Perhaps the move will seem less challenging if we look at how leadership and leaderspace differ and how they can be integrated.

Leadership versus Leaderspace

Leadership is the act of influencing and directing followers. Leaderspace is the practice of containing and catalyzing collaborative work. The two disciplines can function independently or in combination. Leadership is favored when the circumstances are familiar and predictable. When efficacy, alignment and momentum are of high priority. The call for leaderspace comes when things are complex, various skills are needed, and diverse approaches must be combined. When co-learning and co-creation are the key to sustainable solutions.

Comparing leadership and leaderspace makes sense, because in the future we need to combine them to perform and transform with the best result. Each has its own indication of use and a defined action field.

  1. Knowing where you are and what you want is the first step to determine which discipline to apply.
  2. The second is to decide which degree of involvement, engagement and self-organization is needed.
  3. The third step is to onboard or invite people. 1–2–3 and you are on the ship or in the space.

Direction v. Attraction

Leadership shows the way, and explains the why and what to the followers. The direction is communicated and performance parameters introduced to monitor the progress. You know what success looks like, and ensure that deviations from the expected are identified and adjusted. Much leadership activity happens in goal-directed and planned projects.

Leaderspace uses the why and what to inspire collaborators to find new ways. There is no fixed direction, but an intention to frame and stage the activities. As we navigate in unknown territory, we cannot predict what will happen. Success must be defined as we go along. Leaderspace is a natural part of experiments beyond and start-up ventures.

Linear v. Circular

We are living in the midst of a paradigm shift. Holistic, ecological and relativistic worldviews replace linear, mechanistic and deterministic perspectives. Everything is connected in complex patterns, and we are all embedded in the web of life. Both linearity and circularity are ways of thinking that we need to build prosperous societies and live a happy life.

Linear thinking is analytical, critical and logical. Circular thinking is experimental, imaginative and compassionate. If you want accountability, performance, and achievement, go for linear thinking and leadership. If you rely on engagement, inclusion and transformation, you could consider circular thinking and leaderspace.

Owned v. Shared

While one or a few leaders own leadership, all people involved share the leaderspace. Leadership means ownership of resources. As a leader, you decide what and where to invest, and how to reward purposeful behavior. You have the right to hire and fire within a code of conduct and certain principles. Own your leadership or give away your power, seems to be the mantra.

In the leaderspace, people have different skills and roles, but equal rights. Sharing information and perspectives is essential in any decision-making process. Barriers to information flow are removed. The group agrees on what is important, so that the members can make the right choices when separated. Decision power is distributed in the same manner as knowledge and resources.

Onboarding v. Including

In the old metaphor, the ship is sailing, and the new recruits are onboarded as smoothly as possible. Typically, they are hired for skills and placed in positions where they can be useful. They learn how to behave and what is expected of them to become a success. Strategies are implemented, and plans executed. They do what the leader wants.

In the new metaphor, a space is formed to welcome and include new members as they show up. The space has a center of gravity and point of departure. We know where to start and where to return. The group members decide what to do — how, where and when. Workflows are balanced through dialog, negotiation and agreements. We do what we want.

Exploit the known v. Explore the unknown

Leadership is perfect to bring you safe through the known. Focus is on efficiency and return of investment. Followers are taken care of so they can be constructive and productive. Decisions are made from the idea of avoiding waste and filling gaps. By definition, there is constant lack of resources. What is not useful and profitable will be discontinued.

Leaderspace is the option when you want to explore the unknown. Focus is on learning and co-evolvement. Collaborators take care of themselves and each other. Decisions are made to fulfill the purpose and unfold the potential. Sustainability of solutions and the regenerative impact is central to everyone when ideas are selected, choices are made, and actions are carried out.

Implement v. Experiment

Implementation is to start using a plan or system. If you know where to play and how to win, you implement the strategy, make people follow the plan, and adapt to the system. Earning is first priority as you unfold the business potential and exploit the opportunities. You practice with tools and create impact through mastery. What you offer is effective leadership.

Experimentation is to test what is true, what works, and what emerges. Learning is first priority, as you unfold the idea potential and explore the possibilities. You create insights and grow as humans by working with energy, story and idea. What you aim for is transformative leaderspace.

Control flow v. Contain flow

Leadership takes charge of ambitions, strategy and resources. From what is desired, you find a way to reach the goal as cost-effective as possible. For more than a hundred years, resources have been divided into human or non-human. Human resources are now called people, but little has changed when it comes to expectations of leadership to set direction, control flow and manage people.

In the leaderspace, the complex reality is not reduced to dos and don’ts or straight orders. Instead, you contain the sometimes chaotic flow. With an open mind, open heart and open will, you continue the dialog until things sediment and new learning emerges. System representation and diversity in the leaderspace make solutions easier to adapt and integrate.

The shift from leadership to leaderspace is profound. It is more than new templates and tools — it is a complete change of mindset. From exclusive to inclusive. From dominance to resonance. From hierarchy to sociocracy. The disciplines, however, are not opposites. They complement each other. Future leaders will have to know when to launch their leadership and when to open the leaderspace.

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Laust Lauridsen, MD

Help leaders and teams go beyond to transform and perform. Writer, speaker and facilitator.