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Take your teams to the next level: Unleash their untapped potential

Most organizations fail to notice and develop hidden leaders. You can be the exception, recognizing and growing these talented but quiet stars.

4 min read


Take your teams to the next level: Unleash their untapped potential

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Do your high-performing teams have overlooked leaders in their midst? It’s not uncommon for the best groups in our organization to contain a number of hidden leaders, just waiting to be discovered.

Why? Because hidden leaders are quietly working behind the scenes to make things better for both their colleagues and the organization.

In my corporate training “Release Untapped Potential of Your Underutilized Leaders,” I help companies uncover the high-valued talent inside their organization who are just waiting to be engaged, empowered and leveraged. If you want to take your already high-performing teams up another notch, read on.

1. When individuals shine, the team shines

A good leader is not a soloist. When you recognize the individual hidden leaders on your team, many among them are going to turn around and recognize the success of the team as a whole. Your hidden leaders are often less traditional in their approach – more understated, more collaborative and less likely to be out front shining a light on their own achievements. As such, when you create opportunities to recognize the good work they do – as individuals and as a group – you’re valuing the whole team.

2. Maintain team bonds

Teams rely on having distinct yet cohesive skills and abilities. The chronically overlooked often include women, minorities and introverts. Finding and recognizing your hidden leaders will ensure you maximize the perspectives at the table and improve retention by acknowledging the historically undervalued.

Strong group bonds don’t happen overnight, so do the best you can to avoid forcing your teams to go through the “forming” stage over and over again due to high staff turnover. Since the No. 1 reason employees say they leave is lack of recognition from their bosses, it’s safe to say your time and effort put into finding and valuing your hidden leaders won’t go to waste.

3. Recognition equals motivation

Not only are your hidden leaders more likely to stay with the organization when recognized, they’re also more likely to be motivated to do great work. We all get a little more spring in our step when we realize someone has noticed our good work, and your hidden leaders are no exception.

Similarly, the other understated members of your team – the ones who are doing great things but aren’t tooting their own horn – will take notice of the fact that you notice. They will be inspired to keep working hard and building benefit for the company, knowing that recognition can and will come to them, too.

4. Create a more collaborative culture

One of the most easily spotted benefit of improving the diversity of your team leadership is the increase in collaborative effort. When you change the culture from only leading by the loudest voice, the most assertive speaker or the most self-promoting to a culture where cooperation, peer recognition and lauding complementary skill sets are included in the team dynamic, a culture of collaborative work – and collaborative success – can bloom.

Recognizing the talent of your hidden leaders will create a more positive workplace for everyone in your group.

5, Improve team effectiveness

What happens when you change the lens on what a great leader looks like? Many of the top-performing companies in the world have discovered that improving diversity at every level has had a significant measurable effect on the bottom line. More approaches, more opinions and more perspectives at the table has increased effectiveness at the highest ranks, and this can start with even the smallest groups.

If you want to capture that success, start getting to know your team members personally and professionally. Recognize and reward your hidden leaders for the success their diverse ideas and tactics garner for the organization.

High-performing teams are often overlooked while senior management fights fires elsewhere, but you can leverage the energy of those groups, improve team retention and uncover great hidden leaders when you look closer at their success. Chances are good that you’ll see the sparks of some overlooked talent in many of your most collaborative groups.

Make a plan today to recognize and reward your diverse leaders and you’ll reap the rewards, from the bottom to the top of your organization.


Joel Garfinkle provides corporate training, webinars and keynotes. He is recognized as one of the top 50 coaches in the U.S., and the author of 11 books, including “How to Be a Great Boss.” He recently spoke to a rapidly growing tech company on the subject of how to elevate the performance of their teams. Subscribe to Garfinkle’s Fulfillment at Work Newsletter and learn from his two-minute video clips at his YouTube channel.

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