Eclipsed

Photo by Jongsun Lee on Unsplash

We love solar eclipses.

And hate social eclipses.

In a solar eclipse, like the one on April 8, the moon blocks out the sun, making the sun “invisible” for a few minutes. In a social eclipse, someone else’s talent or achievement overshadows our own, making us feel “invisible” for some length of time.

Most people don’t like feeling invisible. Most people we want to be noticed. To be out front. To be on top. Most people want to be the star. Most people want to shine.

Why? Because we’re conditioned to believe that our visibility is a measure of our value.

But what if that conditioning were wrong? You know…like conditioning tends to be?

What if the opposite were actually accurate? What if you chose — and worked diligently toward — invisibility? What if the more invisible you become as a leader the more invaluable you become to your organization?

Crazy? Maybe.

But true? Likely.

Now, by becoming invisible, I don’t mean that leaders should abandon their duties, suppress their gifts, or avoid engaging with people. In fact, leaders who aspire to become invisible can — and should — step into the spotlight when helpful to their organizations. After all, invisible leaders don’t…disappear. Rather, invisible leaders are those who understand that standing behind the spotlight — in order to shine it on the organization’s mission and on other team members — is often the more valuable position.

Leaders who do their jobs well begin to blend in with the team — because they succeed in elevating teammates’ aptitude, opportunity, confidence, and purpose. As teammates “level up,” the leader becomes a leader among many — less visible, harder to distinguish in a crowd…of other leaders.

Author Brian Roth uses an automotive analogy to drive <ahem> this point home.

“If a Ferrari were parked in a lot full of minivans, the Ferrari would be quite visible. But if a Ferrari were parked in a lot featuring other exotic sports cars, the Ferrari would be far less noticeable. Of course, regardless of where it was parked, the Ferrari retains the qualities that made it unique (and powerful!). But in the lot full of other exotic sports cars, that the car was a ‘Ferrari’ would matter less because of the other high-end and powerful vehicles surrounding it.”

Check-in time, leaders. Do you fear being eclipsed by your teammates or by someone else in the organization? If so, know your fear is a natural human response…that’s limiting the potency of your organization.

And that’s contrary to your purpose as a leader.

Eclipsed was originally published in Horizon Performance on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.