When growing your business, don’t dismiss the shy employee in IT or that quiet worker in shipping as unfit for leadership positions. It could just be that the best leaders in your organization are the hidden gems your organization needs to see the best bottom-line results.
In the workplace, it’s those who are outgoing, ambitious, dependable and intelligent who rise through the ranks and assume leadership positions.
But are we missing something? Could it be that organizations are overlooking the truly exceptional leadership talent in their ranks that are critical to scaling a business?
Scott Edinger thinks so. As the co-author of “The Hidden Leader” with Laurie Sain, Edinger contends that too often the outstanding employees who truly impact the bottom line aren’t groomed for the C-suite because they may not be the most vocal or friendly person on a team or in a department.
So, they stay hidden – and organizations miss a golden opportunity to thrive under their leadership, he says.
Still, there are still plenty of opportunities, he says, for organizations to spot these hidden gems. For example, a hidden leader is often someone who shows up for meetings without canceling at the last minute or meets difficult deadlines instead of making excuses. In addition, they may not be the most outgoing.
“I think we have to debunk a lot of myths that just because someone is shy or introverted, that means they won’t be a good leader,” he says. “There are many other important qualities that should be considered.”
Edinger says organizations can not only learn how to better spot these hidden leadership gems, but also work to “unleash” their potential. He suggests:
Because of this person’s integrity, “team members know they can depend on this person to get a task done, ask management for resources or tell the team the truth about other options for handling those tasks,” he explains.
To enable integrity: It’s critical that positional leaders show strong support when hidden leaders demonstrate integrity, Edinger explains. It’s key to integrate integrity into the organization’s culture and ensure difficult situations are handled ethically, he says. It’s important that these hidden leaders who show integrity are recognized and supported by other leaders in the company.
To enable such relationships: Edinger explains that not all leaders – whether they are hidden or not – will have 100% competency in essential relationship skills. The key to developing these skills is that organizations must have a clear objective. Why are relationship skills important to the business? What is the vision for the ideal future state? What cultural changes do leaders want to implement? Then, organizations must align their systems and measure results so that relationship skills are recognized and rewarded.
To enable them to achieve results: These workers maintain their engagement through independent affirmation. It may be a thank you from a customer, or a more formal recognition from a manager. “Their positive, optimistic outlook infects others with the belief that they are both making a difference and creating progress toward a goal,” he says.
To enable them to focus on customer purpose: All employees must understand the same definition of “customer” and are able to link the company’s value promise to their specific tasks. Various forms of communication must ensure that workers understand the value promise to the customer. Results should be measured, but initiative should also be rewarded.
Edinger stresses that when organizations take the time to identify and develop hidden leaders, they will reap the rewards throughout the organization.
“Just ask yourself what happened to your performance when you worked for bad leaders – and then what happened when you worked for good ones,” he says. “You can’t deny the impact.”
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