As a firm believer in the presence of leadership at all levels in an organization, I particularly enjoyed a recent Harvard Business Review post, Find the Reverse Leaders in your Midst, by Scott Edinger. Edinger describes it as reverse leadership – “when someone not in a formal leadership role demonstrates great leadership ability.”

I have seen this numerous times throughout my career with people I had the fortune to manage. There was Georgia, a clerk in Brooklyn, who could run the office singlehandedly because of her ability to influence others, rally people behind a project, and do it all with an infectious sense of humor and wit. Or Robert, a sales representative, who had a true focus on his customers, possessed unflagging integrity, and was a role model for his sales colleagues, many of whom were much older and more experienced than he. And Amanda, a consultant who led a major Human Resources initiative, shaping the strategy, recommending key decisions, and successfully guiding a cross-functional project team through implementation.

Unfortunately many organizations fail to recognize such talent within their ranks and thus are unable to truly leverage these leaders and the skills they bring throughout the organization. Often the individuals are not developed and the skills they possess are not nurtured and fostered in any way.

Edinger cites five characteristics to look for when identifying the “reverse leaders” in your organization:

  • Strong interpersonal skills born of self-awareness
  • A focus on results more so than process
  • High degrees of integrity
  • Deep professional expertise in at least one discipline vital to the organization
  • Unswerving customer focus

By identifying and recognizing this often-hidden talent, Edinger says, you can then cultivate these employees, learn from their examples, help them further develop and progress as they desire, and gain a true competitive advantage.

Who are the hidden leaders in your organization? How have you successfully identified and developed them?
Please leave a comment.

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

For help on identifying and developing the hidden leaders in your organization, contact Robyn at

Click here to receive The Thoughtful Leaders™ Blog posts via e-mail and receive a copy of “Ending Leadership Frenzy: 5 Steps to Becoming a More Thoughtful and Effective Leader.”

Photo Credit:

New York: 212.537.6897 | Pennsylvania: 610.254.0244