The Leadership Vacuum

No organization is perfect.

The world changes constantly and it’s impossible to pursue all the right opportunities with all the right resources at the exact right times.

Gaps always exist.

I’ve made an entire career out of “filling” gaps and I think you should too.

Let me explain.

A market gap exists when customers demand to have a particular problem solved, but suppliers haven’t caught up.

Nearly all of the interesting marketing opportunities in business center around this market gap.

The more you realize such gaps exist, the more you’ll look for them. The more you look for them, the more you’re likely to pursue them.

Organization charts have gaps too.

Most organizations have a CEO with a team of senior executives reporting to her. There’s often a CFO, VP of Marketing, VP of Engineering, and the like.

When organization charts are drawn up, you see lots of boxes indicating formal roles within departments.

Most people focus on getting promoted to the next box above them in the organization chart. I never did.

Instead of focusing on the boxes that were already there, I always focused on the “white space” between the boxes. These were the gaps in organizational staffing.

Business problems don’t always neatly fall into categories that only impact a single department like sales, finance, or engineering.

When you try to take over the VP of Sales' responsibilities, he’s going to object. However, if you take the lead in solving a problem that negatively impacts the sales department, but isn’t solely a sales department issue, rarely does anyone object.

Here’s why.

It has to do with a concept I call the “Leadership Vacuum.”

A leadership vacuum exists when many people agree a problem exists, it needs to be solved, BUT there’s no obvious person whose responsibility it is to solve the problem.

In short, the problem is everybody’s problem and nobody’s problem all at the same time.

I’ll give you a simple example.

Customers buy a product and complain the product doesn’t do what the salesperson said it would do.

The sales team is upset because this “product problem” negatively impacts repeat sales, but the sales department alone can’t change what’s in the product.

Customer support confirms the complaint is pervasive and costs the department a lot of money in processing support tickets.

Engineering researches the claim and find it’s not true. The product does exactly what it is supposed to. The engineering department therefore says the product works as designed and concludes the sales team must be “over selling” the product.

So whose job is it to figure out what’s going wrong and to solve this problem?

In a sense, it’s nobody’s job. In another, it’s everybody's.

This is a classic example of a leadership vacuum.

It’s a problem everyone agrees is a problem.

It’s usually a problem that’s messy without an obvious or easy solution.

It’s a problem everyone wants to go away, but nobody wants to take the lead on because it’s not fully their responsibility and they are busy.

If you want to grow your network, stretch your skills, and rise in your company (without threatening those already in power), you look for leadership vacuums — and you fill them.

Most organization charts are designed to solve the most commonly recurring 80% of problems.

Spend your career in the other 20% — the annoying stuff that everybody hates but the organization isn’t well suited to handle automatically.

At every stage of your career, there’s always... and I mean always... a leadership vacuum somewhere.

It’s usually not for the highest profile projects. It’s usually one or two layers below the coolest work. It’s often the annoying practical stuff.

But here’s the thing, when you make annoying problems go away, other people notice.

When you show you can get things done, not surprisingly, people around you want to send you more things to get done.

This is the way to rise in your organization — by doing the stuff others are annoyed by but don’t want to address personally.

That’s the leadership vacuum.

If you’re serious about accelerating your career, it’s useful to learn from others who have already solved the career problems you now face.

Looking for leadership vacuums is but one example. There are hundreds of tips, strategies, and nuggets of wisdom that can help you make small shifts in your work that make a big impact on your career.

I save the best of my advice and wisdom for members of my Inner Circle... the people I mentor and advise.

I will be opening up my Inner Circle mentorship program to new members for 72 hours in early January.

If you’d like to be notified of this next enrollment period, and to learn more about having me as a mentor, just complete the form below.

I’ll add you to my notification list and will send out more specific details after the new year.

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