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Visibility matters: Find your invisible leaders so they can shine

Most organizations have the talent they need in house, but they fail to recognize them or their winning behaviors and output.

5 min read


Visibility matters: Find your invisible leaders so they can shine

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Does everyone in your organization know about the hard work your employees do, their successes and achievements, and the ways they’ve helped the company? Do you have employees flying under the radar, doing great work but barely being noticed?

In my presentation “The Invisible Leaders: How to Find Them and Let Them Shine,” I discuss how hidden leaders in every organization need to be uncovered and recognized for their hard work — and what the costs will be if you don’t. If you want to leverage the already overlooked talent existing inside your organization, read on.

Why are some leaders invisible?

Power and opportunity often come to those who are known — known who they are and what they do. It matters when those in decision-making positions are aware of the work people have done, the knowledge they hold, the opinions and ideas they can offer. If employees are doing great things, why do so many of them remain virtually anonymous in your organization?

Increasing your visibility requires people to stand up and make their accomplishments known or, at the very least, take credit for successes when others advocate on their behalf. If that’s not happening, the value of their efforts is lost, in many ways. The company may benefit from their work — at least temporarily — but will fail to leverage the opportunity to see and promote a great leader in the making.

Who is impacted by invisibility?

Time and again, in my work with organizations looking to improve their ability to promote from within, I notice that those being overlooked are women, minorities and introverts. Why? There are two reasons.

First, because these groups are less likely to self-promote. Whether they have come from a culture, upbringing or personal style that avoids the spotlight or eschews personal accolades, they are less likely to seize opportunities to let others know about their skills and achievements.

Second, they often have styles that don’t fit the typical mold of what a leader “should” look like. In old schools of thought, leaders must be assertive, maybe even aggressive, and out front and ready to take charge. While that leadership style has its value, we now know that there are many types of leaders. Having a diverse representation of both people and styles has been shown time and again to benefit employee retention and the company’s bottom line.  

How do we foster visibility?

Companies often say they want to change the fabric of their leadership team, but don’t know how to start. Often, they think that recruitment for the skills and faces wanted around the table is the only answer. I say this is rarely true — excellent leaders are already doing great work within your organization. And it’s more valuable to both the company and the employees to find the hidden leaders within.

Reexamine your criteria so you can have a better handle on the different leadership styles you hope to promote. Start looking around your workforce for those understated hard workers who are more quietly helping the team succeed. When you spot them, help give them the visibility they need in your organization to really get noticed. When they’re tapped for higher-profile opportunities, they can really start to build on their reputation.

Who benefits when hidden leaders shine?

Analysis of the top companies proves time and again that diverse leadership positively affects the bottom line — companies with a richer, more varied executive roster do better every time. Whether it’s the varied opinions, ideas, perspectives or leadership styles, diversity will improve the decision-making power of your leadership.

Employees also benefit when hidden leaders get promoted, and not just the ones tapped to advance in the moment. Teams led by more varied management are happier, more optimistic and more engaged. If people can see themselves and their own diverse personalities reflected in the fabric of the organization, it’s easier to feel more connected and believe that like opportunities await them, too.

What are you doing in your organization to uncover your hidden leaders? Make a plan today to change how your company talks about leadership, career advancement and diverse talent acquisition, in addition to changing the visibility of your hidden leaders. When you start creating an environment and a positive path to getting ahead, you’ll be pleased by how quickly you can start to tackle your talent management dilemmas.


Joel Garfinkle provides corporate training, webinars and keynotes. He is recognized as one of the top 50 coaches in the U.S., and has conducted executive coaching to such companies as Oracle, Microsoft, Amazon, Deloitte, Google and Warner Bros. He recently conducted multiple corporate trainings for a company dedicated to winning the talent war by raising the visibility of the hidden leaders in their midst. Subscribe to his Fulfillment at Work Newsletter and receive the free  e-book, “41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!” You can also view 75 of Garfinkle’s 2-minute inspirational video clips at his YouTube channel.

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