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Leadership: visible or invisible?
By Jill Pfitzenmayer / June 24, 2014 /   Loading Disqus...
There’s a new book out by David Zweig entitled Invisibles. I heard Zweig interviewed and was intrigued by his inquiry into those who work behind the scenes to get things done. Zweig researched successful individuals in every field who are effective in their work, yet shy away from self-promotion. These invisibles may hold CEO or other leadership roles and personify humility, confidence, ambition, responsibility, and motivation.

So it got me thinking about the qualities of great leaders, including those who may not stand out in the public arena. Who are the invisibles in Rhode Island’s nonprofit sector? I can think of some stellar child care workers, office staff and board committee members who assume leadership for specific projects or tasks and avoid self-promotion. Like Zweig, I believe that visibility and invisibility are not in competition with each other, but that each leader should understand what their own comfort level is and what the task at hand requires. In order to mobilize many stakeholders, it may be necessary to become a highly visible leader. On the other hand, invisibles may be compelling for their ability to motivate through quiet perseverance and excellent work.

Do you know who the invisibles are in your organization? Are there invisibles in leadership roles at your organization? How does your organizational culture recognize and reward invisibles? I invite board and staff leaders to think about the invisibles in their organization and consider ways to embrace their work more fully. Invisibles may have some great ideas about how to make things better, but perhaps have never been asked. Some invisibles may opt to stay in the front lines because they find more satisfaction there. Others may one day become terrific leaders but they hide their light under a bushel; these future leaders might need some encouragement and support to step forward. If you know of an invisible who embodies humility, confidence, ambition, responsibility and motivation, help find a way to honor their work so that others can be inspired.

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