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Unveiling The Hidden Genius Of Leadership


by Polina Marinova Pompliano, author of “Hidden Genius: The Secret Ways Of Thinking That Power The World’s Most Successful People

In the leadership space, our perceptions of a great leader often revolve around the image of a powerful CEO or a military commander. However, true leadership extends far beyond these conventional notions, encompassing roles such as parent, teacher, or older sibling. In my book, author of “Hidden Genius: The Secret Ways Of Thinking That Power The World’s Most Successful People“, I challenge these stereotypes by sharing some more unique approaches to leadership. By turning the traditional pyramid structure upside down, people can discover their hidden genius and foster an environment of innovation, collaboration, and growth.

My research reveals that the most effective leaders are those who prefer to work behind the scenes, focusing their efforts on enabling and empowering their teams. This viewpoint is exemplified by the stories of visionary leaders like Daniel Ek, the mastermind behind Spotify’s success.

Ek’s leadership journey at Spotify offers a prime example of how the inverted pyramid approach can revolutionize organizational dynamics. Ek’s philosophy involves actively empowering his employees to drive the company’s evolution. Innovation, values, and strategies originate from the team while leaders in the C-suite offer resources and support to execute these ideas efficiently.

Let’s look at Spotify’s “Discover Weekly” feature. When Ek initially questioned its value, the team persevered. The result was a groundbreaking product that transformed user experience and cultivated a culture of ownership and empowerment among employees.

Restaurateur Danny Meyer perceives himself as a “bottom-up manager,” believing that leaders should foster an environment where employees can thrive. Meyer’s leadership philosophy, evident during crises such as 9/11 and the Covid-19 pandemic, emphasizes the importance of cultivating trust. Trust empowers employees to take calculated risks and propel the company forward, even in the face of adversity.

The pandemic provided a test for the effectiveness of this leadership model. Meyer’s response exemplified the potential of empowering teams during times of crisis. With 19 restaurants closed and 2,000 employees laid off, Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group faced unprecedented challenges.

In response, Meyer and his team created the employee relief fund. This initiative not only supported former employees but showcased how a bottom-up leadership approach can stimulate innovative problem-solving. By creating an environment where team members feel valued and supported, leaders convey a clear message: “I believe in your success just as much as my own.”

The journeys of Daniel Ek and Danny Meyer during crises demonstrate the potential of empowerment, collaboration, and trust in fostering innovation and growth.

In an ever-evolving world, we are reminded that leadership transcends roles and positions. The essence of leadership lies in our capacity to empower and enable those around us, nurturing a culture of innovation and collective triumph.


Polina Marinova Pompliano

Polina Marinova Pompliano, author of “Hidden Genius: The Secret Ways Of Thinking That Power The World’s Most Successful People“, is founder of The Profile, a new media company that features longform profiles of successful people and companies each week. Previously, she spent five years at Fortune where she wrote more than 1,300 articles and earned the trust of prominent investors and entrepreneurs.