A recent discussion about leadership surfaced the value of ‘invisible’ leadership. Most leaders at this point may well be wondering what’s happened in the world to change the mantram of ‘be visible ‘ that will be indelibly embossed in their psyche.
In truth, things are happening that bit by bit will enable us to add another layer to leadership practice. That of invisible leadership. Whilst the deeply engraved call for hero-style leadership is waning as a go-to leadership style, in times of crisis it inevitably raises its head again and in these times there is evidence of leaders tussling with inclusivity, empowerment, and directive autocratic leadership. This has become especially evident in the hybrid working/future workplace discussions. This is a healthy struggle as it symbolises a raising of our embodiment of more refined leadership.
What we can see is that this crisis is different. It’s not a quick transient crisis…it’s a series of layers demanding transformation from the inside out – within leaders, people, and ultimately organisations. Each discussion, each decision is asking that we weigh more factors, we embrace complexity, and we allow solutions to come forward at the right timing.
Each person, each leader is being called to examine their values, their code of being, their priorities and to redefine how they express their leadership in the world.
What’s that got to do with invisibility? Key qualities in invisible leadership include the ability to be a focused magnetic energy centre that radiates and inspires. With invisible leadership, we add the qualities of humility and lack of ego. Invisible leaders move in the world with great impact but without the need for recognition, praise or plaudits.
The power inherent in invisibility is the ability to spread wisdom and insight whilst enabling higher understanding to emerge and guide the outcomes. Invisibility can bring great impacts but without credit going to the leader…this requiring humility. Angela Merkel is reportedly a great example of such a leader…unassuming, contained, and responsible for brokering many behind-the-scenes discussions that have literally changed the outcomes of major social and political decisions without the need to be seen to be at the forefront.
What is needed from all leaders in our world today isn’t outer show and glorification…it’s depth, openness, understanding, wisdom, and steadiness.
Let’s embrace the value of invisibility as we strengthen our impact and influence.
I absolutely share this vision of a modern leadership which also means placing oneself humbly at the service of others in order to achieve a higher purpose.
In some situations this can mean taking a step back, losing visibility. But what could be interpreted as weak behavior is instead an alternative way of exercising one’s leadership.
I have already written about this “invible” leadership platform but in a slightly different meaning and I report that concept here below.
Traditional leadership models, even the most recent and evolved ones, highlight the “active” role of the leader in guiding employees. The category of the “laissez-faire” leader is rightly associated with passive behavior, but also with negative results on the part of employees and the organization. In traditional models, the effectiveness of leadership grows in proportion to the degree of activism of the leader. These do not in any way contemplate a leader with a passive style which, however, turns out to be effective.
It is indeed interesting to note that, in the presence of groups and organizations that are effective even in the absence of a leader or with a passive leader, we are led to think that the group works “despite the absence or passivity of leadership”. Adopting a perspective prone to self-organization requires overcoming this widespread and consolidated belief. Passive leadership can have negative connotations, but there are also cases of passive leadership associated with excellent results. I am referring in particular to cases in which passive leadership represents the main “trigger” for the dynamics of self-organization. The “invisible leader” – so we could define him “is not the one who adopts a” push “logic and therefore motivates the collaborators, provides the direction, gives the directives, possesses the vision, etc., but the one who creates, often underground and invisible, the conditions for people’s self-organization. In some cases, contrary to what we have been taught to think, the renunciation of active leadership turns out to be an effective leadership style even if often not recognized and immediately visible.
thanks for presenting a strong concept. the key is the energy as stated by you ” Key qualities in invisible leadership include the ability to be a focused magnetic energy centre that radiates and inspires.” . that is precisely means established trust. How does a leader do that?
Thanks Vinod…a leader does it by building on a foundation of a commitment to the greater good, positive values that convey high quality morals and ethics and by being willing to act from a place of humility rather than ego…in my view…
I believe as situations change leadership style should change too.
With your definition of invisible leadership, Lorraine “With invisible leadership, we add the qualities of humility and lack of ego. Invisible leaders move in the world with great impact but without the need for recognition, praise or plaudits” I just wonder about the applicability of this concept. Not that I am against it, but questioning its practical application.
How many leaders are willing to see the fruits of their work all eaten by others? Only trees do that. Maybe the closer we get the better our leadership gets. But how close remains the question in my mind.
Many thanks Ali – for me it’s not about self sacrifice it’s about not needing the plaudits…if the leader is willing to move from a place of humility then they will still receive the praise but it won’t be what motivates them – they are motivated by a higher cause…