The Hidden Leader

Discover and Develop Greatness Within Your Company

The Hidden Leader

Authors: Scott K. Edinger, Laurie Sain
Pub Date: February 2015
Print Edition: $24.95
Print ISBN: 9780814433997
Page Count: 240
Format: Hardback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814434000

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What Is a Hidden Leader?

Hidden leaders are all around you within your organization. You have

worked with them, encouraged them, and seen them rise within

organizations to positions of power and influence. You may have been a

hidden leader early in your career.

You and others have called these workers smart, crucial, effective, or an

important part of the company. You have seen them work effectively with

people at many levels within the organization, from front lines to executive

suites, regardless of their formal positions. But if you thought at all about

these employees’ abilities, you probably categorized them as having natu-

ral talent that couldn’t be replicated. You didn’t see them as leaders.

We believe differently. We believe these hidden leaders are a source of

great strategic advantage in your company. They can be defined, identified,

nurtured, and encouraged to help an organization develop a competitive

edge. Some of these leaders will move up the organizational chart, accep-

ting positional power as their personal influence and power develop.

Others will prefer to stay at a certain level in the organization and bring

their personal influence to bear on the work they love to do. As modern

organizations develop new structures, both flat and virtual, we believe it is

important to know how to spot and encourage hidden leaders and bring

their abilities to bear on the toughest challenges in an organization. We

also believe focusing on the skills and characteristics of hidden leaders can

make all your employees more productive and satisfied.

Hidden leaders are not invisible to the people around them. What

makes them “hidden” is not that their coworkers and supervisors do not

value them as important players within the company. It is that management

does not think of them as leaders with the potential to drive excellence

throughout the organization.

Many people define leaders as people high up within management

ranks or those likely to be tapped as future managers and executives. This

definition implies that leadership flows downhill from those in acknowledged

high positions. It also positions leaders as somewhat above the everyday

challenges that characterize frontline responsibilities.

Our definition of hidden leaders is that they are the powerhouses

within organizations who help galvanize people toward excellence. Generally,

hidden leaders have little or no positional power. They are in frontline

jobs or possibly lower-level supervisory positions. They may not be viewed

as people likely to take on managerial responsibilities. Their leadership is

disconnected from the traditional positional power of supervisors, managers,

and executives. This disconnect does not undermine their leadership;

it simply hides them from those with more traditional views of leadership.

Hidden leaders guide people’s decisions on many levels of an organization.

They are the origin of the upflow of leadership. This grassroots

leadership is powerful because it emerges from people on the front lines

who see the daily impact of executive decisions on products, processes,

customers, and stakeholders. By leading from lower in the hierarchy, hidden

leaders provide new insights to executives and official leaders who no

longer experience frontline challenges.

The power of hidden leaders is obvious to those around them. These

top individual contributors are known as the ones to approach for tough

problems, the people new hires are directed to meet to understand the

company’s inner workings, and the anchors of productivity, creativity, and


We propose that hidden leaders are not just great workers: They are

leaders in their own right. Managers who identify and treat them as leaders

gain an important strategic and competitive advantage over the competition.

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