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Uncovering your company’s unconventional leaders

Every company has unconventional leaders hiding in its teams, and Mike Szczensy suggests ways to bring them forward to improve your business.

3 min read


unconventional leaders

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The concept of leadership is undergoing a much-welcomed transformation. Gone are the days when leadership was confined to the boardrooms of the corporate elite. Today, leaders emerge from the most unexpected places, demonstrating that leadership is not a position but a practice. This shift encourages us to redefine leadership beyond traditional roles and hierarchies, recognizing the impact of those who lead in diverse settings such as community groups, social movements and online spaces.

The essence of authentic leadership transcends the confines of executive titles and corner offices. It is found in the ability to inspire, motivate and positively impact others and the community. This broader understanding of leadership acknowledges the roles of grassroots activists, social innovators and digital community organizers. These individuals exemplify leadership qualities by uniting people around a common cause, nurturing community spirit and instigating change from the grassroots level.

Leadership in diverse settings

Leadership manifests in various forms and settings, often extending beyond the traditional corporate environment. In community groups, individuals lead by organizing local initiatives, ranging from environmental clean-ups to neighborhood watch programs. They demonstrate leadership through service and a commitment to their community. Social movements also showcase leaders who emerge to challenge the status quo, advocating for social justice, equity and change through peaceful protests and awareness campaigns. Online spaces have become a hotbed for leadership, with individuals using social media and digital platforms to rally global communities around specific causes and interests.

The recognition of unconventional leadership is rising, with numerous award programs and initiatives designed to highlight the achievements of those leading outside traditional structures. These awards celebrate individuals’ courage, innovation and impact in various fields, including environmental conservation, social entrepreneurship and community activism. By acknowledging these leaders, such programs validate their efforts and inspire others to take initiative and lead uniquely.

One notable example is the Ashoka Fellowship, which supports social entrepreneurs worldwide. These entrepreneurs have innovative solutions to social problems and the potential to change societal patterns. Similarly, the TED Fellows program recognizes extraordinary thinkers and doers who have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments, courage and moral imagination in their respective fields. These programs underscore that leadership can flourish anywhere, driven by passion and a desire to make a difference.

Inspiring broader recognition of diverse leadership potential

Acknowledging and celebrating leadership in all forms is crucial to cultivating a more inclusive view of leadership. This involves creating platforms for sharing stories of unconventional leaders, offering support and resources to emerging leaders in non-traditional fields and fostering a culture that values diversity, innovation and community involvement. By doing so, we can inspire a new generation to see themselves as potential leaders, regardless of their background, profession or social standing.

Leadership is not confined to the highest levels of corporate or political hierarchies. It is found in the collective actions of individuals working toward a common goal, the passion of activists fighting for change and the innovative spirit of entrepreneurs and community organizers. By recognizing leadership in unexpected places, we broaden our understanding of what it means to lead while celebrating the diverse and dynamic ways leadership can manifest. Let us move beyond the boardroom and embrace the myriad expressions of leadership that surround us, for it is in these spaces that true leadership is often found.


Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own.


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