The concept is simple but so hard to do. How do you take charge by not taking charge? The answer is: to intentionally occupy the void where there is no guidance, no organization, no order.
Like the Gladiator, played by Russel Crowe, he sees a way to bring order to the tangle of fighters flung together on the floor of the Roman Colosseum. In the film, they were marched into an arena battleground, forced to re-enact the massacre of a barbarian horde, and found themselves playing the part of the losers, to be slaughtered by the well-trained Colosseum mercenaries.
Psychologically, they had everything against them; old armor that dozens of gladiators had died in before them, weak, dull weapons that had so clearly cost their previous owners their lives, the expectation from years of being an observer that, here, was the place people were sent to die, a crowd of restless, blood-lustful fans of gore expecting to get a show, the scripted battle where they were playing the losing side of a massacre; the heavy duty equipment, sharpened blades, camaraderie of the opposing forces, with their confidence that they were going to win, and that they had likely killed in this Colosseum many times before.
Plus, our fighters were strangers to one another. They didn’t know each others’ ticks, timing or mannerisms. They were likely saying their final prayers, as the many who died before them did; with the most valorous thinking, “Well, if I’m going down, let me at least take one of them with me”.
And yet the Gladiator knew of an order that surpassed all of that. He knew a method of rules, a system, a way that things should be done that would lead to a higher level of performance, of excellence, and a rapid, focused progression of their collective abilities. That order exists and always existed, and as a leader, Maximus, the Gladiator, rushed in and filled that void; and not another fighter resisted.
They organized. They joined together. They moved as one. This was always there, but only made real by someone who would occupy the void of that missing order and give power and strength to those who could not fill that void themselves. He did not take power. No, he gave it. As a result, they victoriously snagged triumph out of the armored fists of the formerly intended winners; all to the utter bemusement of everyone present. More importantly, they were able to leave that day with their lives intact. That, my dear readers, is leadership.
Remember this when you vote for someone, work for someone, or have to lead someone. Occupy the order that you know and understand better than others such that you let them experience its power through guidance, setting expectations, and first describing it as if it were treasured knowledge, and you were merely one custodian of it.
You take nothing. You give of yourself. This is what leaders do.