In my latest book. I describe Hidden Leaders as the people in companies that provide a powerful leadership presence despite the fact that their title or position provides them little to no authority. In fact. the topic I’ve received the most feedback on from the book is the importance of leading through relationships.

To the naked eye, it may seem they are simply able to get things done. Look closer, and you’ll see that they are demonstrating strong leadership and influence by dint of relationships they’ve developed. Look closer still, and you’ll see that it isn’t simply niceness or collegiality that has earned them this influence. Too many people seek to establish trusting business relationships centering on likeability. I’m not suggesting that likeability isn’t good, only that it isn’t sufficient. When I observe Hidden Leaders in action, they lead through relationships in the following ways:


Environmental issues are a constant point of contention for activists and big business. While environmentalists want to preserve and protect nature, businesses leaders are often pressured to think more about the bottom line. Mark Tercek, CEO of The Nature Conservancy, implores both sides to look at things differently.

TNC’s mission isn’t unlike that of many other environmental nonprofits. The Arlington, Va.-based organization seeks to “conserve the lands and waters on which life depends.” Where the difference lies, though, is in its approach. While Tercek acknowledges that the environmental movement has accomplished some impressive things, he says there’s a harsh reality it needs to face.

“If you think about all the things we’re trying to protect, they can be measured, and we do measure them, and they’re all in decline,” Tercek says. “Think about it: rainforests, healthy fisheries, ample topsoil, healthy forests, biodiversity itself. We measure these things and, notwithstanding all of our great efforts, they’re all in decline.”

That’s why Tercek and TNC are reaching across the aisle, working alongside companies with less-than-stellar environmental track records. (read more…)

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from more than 190,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our e-newsletter.

How effectively do content marketing efforts (blogs, white papers, etc.) drive action by your customers?

  • Extremely — our content marketing drives great lead generation: 6.06%
  • Generally — our content sometimes sparks new conversations with prospects/clients: 34.55%
  • Not at all — our content generates few, if any, comments, feedback or leads: 36.97%
  • Not the point — we only publish content because everyone else does: 4.24%
  • Not relevant — we have much higher priorities than content marketing: 18.18%

Increase Your Return. “That’s Marketing’s job.” Sorry but if you think content marketing is only the purview of marketers, you’re missing a big opportunity. Thought leadership is your product and the leaders in your organization have plenty of it. If you’re not tapping into it, you’re missing out. (read more…)

Your team is made up of some of the best — you have seen them in action and you know they’re great players. Every day, you see them minimize risk, manage issues and deliver quality work. They almost always execute flawlessly and you trust them to get the job done, praising and motivating them to perform well. Do you trust them enough to let them make mistakes?

There’s value to being able to follow a known path and complete the work, but we all know that projects (and lives) rarely follow a script. There are always unknowns and unexpected issues, no matter how well you plan.

Think about these specific questions:

  • Do your employees feel confident that they can tackle the day-to-day challenges with creativity and innovation?
  • Are they free to try something new, welcome to suggest taking a chance that might deliver faster, cheaper or better results?
  • Do they know you’ll be there with them, not there against them, if it doesn’t work out?
  • (read more…)

A few weeks ago we kicked off our series, ”Moving Up the Value Chain of Speaking Approaches” with a look at the Expert presentation approach.

If you missed the previous articles in the series, see:

Business leaders know firsthand the importance of aligning a team and galvanizing members to take action. To achieve this result, you need to convey information and connect with your audience. When your presentation goes beyond sharing information and includes a call to action, the Interpreter speaking approach will help you to rise to the occasion and ensure your success.

When to take the Interpreter approach

As an Interpreter, you’re in the moving business. Your job is to move people from point A to point B. Many times that goal translates as moving listeners from the “status quo” to a new way of operating. (read more…)