Breakthrough in Performance: Leading invisibly or are you an Invisible Leader?

March 2014 Newsletter

Working recently with a large multinational I was struck by the vast difference in leadership I have experienced during a series of assignments.

One leader I am working with is inquisitive, engaged and questions what he does and how he does it to get the best from himself and the others. By contrast I have also recently worked with an invisible leader or, to be more accurate, an absent leader.

So what do I mean by leading invisibly?

It’s about being so connected and a part of the team / department / function that through slight adjustments, quiet words, humour, innovation and a sense of leading by following, much more gets done.

On the other hand invisible leaders are recognisable by their defensiveness, walking away from the real issues and doing everything they can to be the image. The thing is people can see through them – another aspect of invisibility.

On my blog which I created to share my passion for learning, I give practical tips, show short videos that inspire and inform and newsletters that help me express how learning / coaching / mentoring really brings out the very best in leaders of all levels. For we are all leaders, aren’t we?

A great source for the videos has been the TED talks and some of the greatest of these have been by Simon Sinek whose new book is  ‘Leaders Eat Last’

Sinek’s TED talk on his first book ‘Start with Why’ is the top ten of  most watched TED talks  of all time and is one of the videos on my blog.

Some of the most forceful of the messages in the book are at the beginning: “The need to feel safe” and how this drives the behaviour of people within organizations. The core of the new book is that humans are biologically wired to be social animals who seek safety, but whatever we are organizationally we are humans first and our work role second. He explains that our business leaders have not protected the tribe when the going got tough – banking comes to mind as an instant example.

He suggests business leaders have merely satisfied their own selfish outcomes and this is why we have lost trust in them and resent their extravagant salaries, bonuses and perks. On a wider scale this may also be why trust has been lost in many other major institutions, aspects of religion, politics and government.

So if a leader can be the most effective by being invisible, by putting aside his or her ego and being a servant leader / follower leader, just how do they make the transition to this stage of enlightenment?

So some ways to start:

  • Build self awareness, sharing insight and a desire to learn
  • Seek a sounding board with some challenging questions
  • Listen deeply to others and taking action in small enough chunks that move things foreword relentlessly and almost in an unseen way
  • Create a place within the organisation where learning and the sharing experience and insight is seen as the number one indicator of success.

You can embed this way of working into your organisation by:

  • Clearly define what your organisation means by coaching / mentoring / learn share
  • Ensure all involved fully understand the level of time and commitment required to make it a mutually beneficial working / learning partnership relationship
  • Integrate coaching / mentoring / learn share as a philosophy and practice by introducing them into leadership / management development approaches
  • Be positive about going forward
  • Be open to suggestions/ ideas from all parties
  • Listen to others outside your own organisation
  • Use a structure – plan and prepare
  • Be supportive and challenging with respect, integrity and without fear
  • Look for the patterns that emerge, capture them and spread what works.

That leaves us with how to get over the ‘must make a profit shareholder’ fear factor.
The real truth is without doing all of the above, engaging all who work there, promoting the seeking and use of learning, stagnant closed organisations die out and even more fear grows.

So have the courage, get someone who will challenge your thinking and draw out your real strengths and desires it would be great to work alongside share some knowledge and build a successful future