Covert Leadership

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Description of Covert Leadership. Explanation.

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Definition Covert Leadership. Description.


Covert Leadership is a term invented by Henry Mintzberg ('98) to describe how modern leaders may lead without seeming to. They don't seek absolute control over others; rather, through many unobtrusive actions, they inspire others to perform and use their talents.


Mintzberg compares leaders with a symphony orchestra conductor. When a covert leader or top manager guides (part of) an organization, just like a symphony orchestra conductor, he leads without seeming to, without his people being fully aware of all that he is doing.

In today's world of professionals, a leader is not completely powerless--but neither does he have absolute control over others. Covert leadership means managing with a sense of nuances, constraints, and limitations.


Like musicians, professionals don't need to be empowered--they're already secure in what they know and can do--but they do need to be infused with energy for the tasks at hand.

Because knowledge work has grown in importance, the way an orchestra conductor operates can serve as a good model for top managers in a wide range of businesses.


In such businesses, the role of the covert leader is: to act quietly and unobtrusively in order to exact not obedience but inspired performance.


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Compare with: Charismatic Leadership  |  Seven Surprises for New CEOs (Porter)  |  Active Listening  |  Storytelling  |  Chain of Command  |  Chairman of the Board  |  Chief Executive Officer  |  Management by Exception  |  Span of Control  |  Transformational Leadership  |  Seven Habits (Covey)  |  Level 5 Leadership (Collins)  |  EPIC ADVISERS  |  Core Group Theory  |  Strategic Stakeholder Management  |  SMART  |  Path-Goal  |  Leadership Continuum  |  Situational Leadership  |  Theory X Theory Y  |  4 Dimensions of Relational Work  |  Leadership Styles (Goleman)  |  Strategic Intent  |  Results-Based Leadership  |  Transactional Leadership

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