In Praise of the Stealth Leader: The Oft-Unsung Hero of the Office

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I had a conversation recently with an employee named Amanda who expressed her appreciation for her co-worker Becky. Amanda raved about how great a fit Becky is for our company’s culture. When I asked what exactly Becky was doing so right, Amanda said, “She's a sneaky leader.”

I'd never heard the term before. A sneaky leader -- or stealth leader -- Amanda explained, is someone who doesn’t set the tone for the team by giving orders or because it’s in his or her job title. These leaders lead, guide and encourage their teams from behind the scenes, often subtly.

This was an apt description of one of our most veteran employees. Becky’s contributions could go unnoticed because she doesn’t draw attention to them, but they're numerous and significant nonetheless.

Here, four traits of the stealth leader. 

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1. They don’t care who gets the credit

Our company looks for a humble, team-first attitude in employees. The stealth leader will go the extra mile without feeling the need to not-so-subtly “drop” their do-gooding into a conversation. They gain respect from their peers by their selflessness without the need to boast.

Stealth leaders put in the extra effort because it’s who they genuinely are, and they believe that to contribute above and beyond the call of duty in and of itself is the reward.

2. 'Bring it on' is their mantra

There are many ways to lead by example, but the stealth leader often does so by a readiness to take on any and all challenges.

While some may slowly back away or avoid contact when the rallying cry for volunteers sounds, the stealth leader leans forward and is quick to raise their hand. This small act of answering the call helps set the tone for others who need a little encouragement to tackle new obstacles.

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3. They're reliable and dependable

While these may not be the most headline-grabbing traits, they certainly rank near the top of the list. A leader should always be a go-to person, the one you turn to when you absolutely, positively need to get the job done. They prove time and again they can be counted on.

Often unnoticed, this cumulative trait eventually shines through in.

4. They have your back

The stealth leader is the first one to lend a helping hand to an employee who’s underwater. Not only is the offer of support always welcomed, it can serve as a catalyst for this behavior in your entire company. An organization with an all-in-it-together approach is tough to beat. 

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