Many invisible things in this world including oxygen are life sustaining. So is invisible leadership which is about being a people-centered leader rather than a position-centered leader. Such leaders are experts in hiding themselves while shoving their followers into the limelight of success.
Nothing defines leadership better than vanilla flavor in a cake. Invisible yet all pervading!
Perhaps this is best personified by Jambavan in the epic Ramayana. When the monkey army was stuck at the shores`of the Indian Ocean with an impossible mission of jumping across the ocean to find Sita, there was immense despair. That is when Jambavan gathered his leadership skills and inspired Hanuman by reminding him of his latent powers and skills. That was a defining moment in Hanuman’s life. Such defining moments show us who we really are, they show others who we really are and they determine who we will become in the future.
Then on, Jambavan remained invisible in the background of Ramayana and Hanuman went on to become the celebrated hero of the epic. Invisible leadership is about achieving the satisfaction of creating achievers.
Interestingly, the same Hanuman as he grew older, assumed the role of an invisible leader in the Mahabharata war. While remaining in the background, sitting invisibly on the flag of Arjuna, he inspired Bhima to become the war hero of the Mahabharata.
The highest goal of leadership is to develop leaders and not just gain followers. Just like every fruit has a seed of continuity in it, similarly every leader has to have a master plan of continuing his legacy of leadership. In not allowing others to grow, a leader unwittingly locks his own growth. Locked leadership is about prioritizing one’s position. Unlocked leadership is about prioritizing people. Growth oriented leaders are like farmers encouraging their crop to grow; happy to see people grow.
An invisible leader unlocks the growth of his people by (a) facilitating behavioral change (b) helping them rise to become better human beings, not just better workforce and (c) giving them the taste of success. Before Jambavan came into Hanuman’s life, no one could control Hanuman’s power and channelize his unlimited energy in the right direction. So the sages, out of frustration ended up cursing him to forget his powers. With Jambavan’s inspiration, Hanuman changed from a minister to a hero, he rose to the occasion on the eve of the greatest need and succeeded in the mission impossible.
When a leader succeeds, he impresses the whole world. But when a leader inspires, he impacts the follower’s world. For the world, Hanuman is the impressive hero. But for Hanuman, Jambavan is the impacting hero.
An invisible leader acts like a constantly expanding umbrella. The umbrella not only expands in its dimension to accommodate more people but also goes higher to create more room on top. After a certain point, the impact of a leader is not judged by how productive he personally is but by how effectively he develops a new army of super-productive leaders. By not upgrading his role, a leader sits tightly on the lid of the growth of the follower.
An invisible leader does not get locked into the cocoon of position, but breaks free and transforms into a butterfly that inspires growth and creativity.