I was reading a company vision document that a reader emailed. One statement caught my eye more than the others:-
"The new leadership style advocated by _______ focuses on preventing problems. This will result in leaders being less noticeable than managers."
Their notion is that the work of prevention is less visible because no problem occurs.
In general, I think the idea of invisible leadership is pretty interesting. I am bothered by the embedded assumptions of words such as empowerment, inspiration, motivation, performance management, and even plain old management. At the core of these words is POWER and/or CONTROL.
Invisible leadership feels more like doing the best things without yielding power. Invisible leaders influence the system and people by being a partner.
"A leader is most effective when people
barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, his
troops will feel they did it themselves." Lao Tzu
How do you select, hire, measure, and retain invisible leaders? Now that’s the rub. Well, if they love what they do (and they’d have to) retention is probably not the issue. Finding invisible leaders will take more work and a whole new mindset toward hiring criteria. The behavioral interview, so popular today, might not work to find the best invisible leader.
And what about all those leadership incentives? How do you determine stock options and bonuses? Well, stock options ought not be tied to performance anyway and bonuses don’t improve performance, so those functions are in need of reinvention even under the current, louder leadership model.
Personally, for my next corporate gig, I want a fair wage for what my role is expected to contribute and then NO financial incentives. Hold me accountable – absolutely. Fire me in a heart beat if I do not perform. If I am doing my job as a leader, you will know it – not because I get accolades at meetings or make big and flashy wins. You will know it because the workplace is engaged, on fire, and performing better than you could have imagined.
Look out…leadership in progress.