by Jane Anderson, Featured Contributor
IN 1997 I WORKED for one of my favorite managers. Her key to everything was ‘preserve the relationship’. She didn’t mean be a doormat or agree to unrealistic expectations, but to be cautious in commitments, handling conflict, acting instead of reacting, always telling the truth, and practicing integrity. Reading this book, The Hidden Leader by Scott K. Edinger and Laurie Sain was like a step back in time to what I learned then. The entire book was full of personal experiences from the authors making it an ideal text to create incentive for innovation within your own organization.
A lofty title or even position on the org chart does nothing to identify the real leader within. Hidden leaders demonstrate behaviors consistently. Integrity, Relationships, Results, and being Customer oriented – even if they don’t connect with customers directly. Ideally, potential leaders exhibit all four characteristics, but when one or more are absent, that doesn’t strip them of the possibility of becoming a leader despite these deficits. The chapter on identifying hidden leaders presents broad spectrum examples of how to coach, train, and mentor these individuals to develop the areas that inhibit proficiencies in those areas.
Do you know integrity when you see it? We all pride ourselves on being persons of integrity, but the section, Enable Integrity, goes into detail about how to recognize integrity, support it and teach it. This chapter is more than analogy. The authors use situational experiences of real people to describe probable interactions with people in their sphere of influence when making choices and they explain how hidden leaders can be guided in their reactions to conflict. Discovery of hidden leaders means being able to identify their traits. Hidden leaders manage ambiguity, are able to make decisions, think of others before themselves, are viewed as trustworthy, have a strong sense of fairness, and consistently help others succeed. Put what you’ve learned to the test. Fill in the questionnaire to see who, in your organization, has potential to be a hidden leader.
Build Essential Relational Skills
Have you ever thought about the term ‘soft skills’ and wondered why they are called soft when they are really hard to develop? Maybe not for everyone, but interrelation skills are the most important to have, but often the hardest to master. There is nothing soft about them – and they have to be learned then integrated into everyday performance. The baseline evaluation on relational skills is on the emotional level which are evidenced in paying attention to others, making an effort to connect, and waiting to have difficult conversations when they are emotionally prepared.
Authentic relationships entail communicating one-on-one with people. Rolled into quality communications is the ability to effectively share information with purpose, clarity, and confirmation. Critical thinking and the ability to articulate solutions is another mark of a hidden leader. Do you know individuals who are effective at conflict resolution, are adept at providing honest, constructive criticism, and are generous with crediting others? You have probably met a hidden leader.
Create a Focus on Results
While it seems like every person in the organization is focused on results, the authors point out the measuring stick of whether they really are. They say two characteristics will be present: taking initiative and maintaining a wide perspective, but it’s important to apply them in the right amounts. In a four quadrant chart, they describe what it means to balance perspective with initiative. The authors don’t throw you in the deep end of the ocean and see if you sink. They provide a worksheet to assess the hidden leader’s proclivity for focusing on results. There are four roles at play in the striving-for-results process and a descriptive questionnaire aids in rating observed behavior on a scale between initiative and perspective. The Plodder has low initiative and narrow perspective. The Dreamer has wide perspective and low initiative. The Hyper-Actor has narrow perspective and high initiative. The Hidden Leader has wide perspective and high initiative. Hidden leaders are also optimistic and while they don’t ignore setbacks and failures, they use them as opportunities to refocus on better results.
Instill Customer Purpose
Let’s get crystal clear on this. Customer purpose is not customer service. Customer service responds to customer needs. Customer purpose creates value. Being customer purposed means proactively envisioning how any task affects the value provided to the customer by the company. Customer purposed, hidden leaders engage five distinct characteristics: enthusiasm for the work, balanced skill/communications proficiency, a sense of urgency, an owner’s mindset, and being champions of change. These individuals embrace organizational strategies and takes responsibility for assuring customer results and outcomes in the same spirit of having ownership in the company.
What if I told you that there’s a dark side to the adage “What gets measured gets done”? While that has nuances of truth, there are times when it deters productivity. If employees fear that measurement is used to inspect them instead of their work, performance along with morale will plummet. In this chapter the authors talk about the complexity of measuring performance and results so the focus is on growth, forward progress, and being able to link that progress to specific goals. They add interest to the operation of measurements by showing that measuring the right things is a science but there are basic principles to make measurement effective while leading to the outcomes you desire. The layers affected by performance measurement are: Results and Integrity, Customer Experience, Processes and Procedures, and People within the Organization. Last, but especially important to performance measurement are Hidden Leaders. As the authors conclude, “Hidden leadership characteristics are not the only context for creating an effective measurement system. But we believe they offer guidance to ensure that your organization’s performance-measurement system is useful”. Focus on results, centralize the customer, communicate clearly, reward initiative, not just results.
Get it together and start identifying the hidden leaders in your organization. There are ten dimensions of a company’s performance capability and culture. 1) Communication, 2) Strategy and Goals, 3) Teamwork and Collaboration, 4) Alignment, 5) Organizational Learning, 6) Capacity for Change, 7) Customer Focus, 8) Innovation, 9) Values, 10) Engagement and Commitment
An organizational culture strong in these dimensions supports the achievement of a company’s goals. Use the worksheets to enhance your discovery of the hidden leaders in your organization. Not only will you be helping to enhance their potential, you will expand both culture and value to fulfill your company’s potential as well.