Who are the hidden leaders in your workplace? Can you spot them? They could be right in front of you, mixed in with the worker bees and confident extroverts. Hidden leaders are enthusiastic employees who make good decisions, listen well, and are considerate of others. With a strong sense of fairness and integrity, they often help others to succeed. They are focused on business goals and the customer experience.
In The Hidden Leader, Edinger and Sain explain that organizations must be open to discovering leadership traits in unexpected people. They sometimes remain hidden by choice, chance, or position. It is up to managers to recognize the value these unsung contributors bring to the organization’s bottom line and long-term success.
After hidden leaders are identified, how do we engage these “strategic energy sources”? Edinger and Sain suggest two ways: Flatten the organizational structure so that they “pop up in the landscape,” and provide opportunities for hidden leaders to maximize their contributions.
Organizational culture also can help hidden leaders thrive. According to the authors, a culture with an emphasis on performance measurement is key. This allows managers to expose all employees over time to the core characteristics of hidden leaders. With guidance and measured results, all employees have an opportunity to develop leadership qualities. In this way the performance we expect from hidden leaders becomes the norm for all.
A culture where initiative is rewarded also is imperative. Too often managers skip over employee efforts in their pursuit of results. Initiatives that fail may still serve as paths to innovation. To create a culture of innovation, management must be willing to reward those who try something new, even if it doesn’t get the desired results. The Hidden Leader helps readers identify, encourage, and reward initiative that can lead to innovation.
The authors provide detailed worksheets and questionnaires for immediate use, accessible through quick response (QR) codes and URLs. The book’s website (www.thehiddenleader.com) provides additional information to guide readers through the process of discovering and grooming hidden leaders.
By following the steps in the book and its supplemental materials, organizations can cultivate their best employee advocates. Full chapters in the book are devoted to enabling integrity, building relational skills, creating a results focus, and instilling customer purpose. The authors also identify steps organizations can take if one or more of these key traits is missing in employees.
With their straightforward and accessible writing style, Edinger and Sain provide a fresh look at leadership potential. They weave in personal examples to show readers that hidden leaders can be developed and nurtured, becoming a company’s hidden competitive advantage.