Successful Leadership is What You Don’t See

Jake Wilder
6 min readMar 26, 2022

I’ll take trust and empathy over confidence and charisma any day.

iStock/Phawat Topaisan

We tend to judge leaders by what we see, because that’s the most available information. We look at who’s in the spotlight, who speaks up, and who takes initiative. Traits like action, confidence, and charisma are easy to see and easy to assess.

Yet what makes a leader truly great are the things that aren’t visible. It’s often the actions that we don’t see that build trust, form connections, and bring out the best in people.

Our “fake it until you make it” culture feeds into this dichotomy. Managers look for pedestals and try to amplify their voice. They try to maximize their time in the spotlight at the cost of all else. Yet when visibility is the priority, effectiveness, by definition, is not.

There’s nothing wrong with increasing your visibility. It’s important to have a voice and use it effectively. But it’s meaningless if you’re not doing the unseen work as well. Action, initiative, and confidence don’t matter unless they’re paired with trust, empathy, and competence.

Before worrying about what everyone can see, great leaders focus on things they can’t:

They encourage others to make the decisions.



Jake Wilder

I don’t know where I’m going. But at least I know how to get there.