Great leaders know how to find and leverage the brilliance in their organization. They know how to go beyond the “usual suspects,” and bring out the best work from people who may not be seen, "popular," or outspoken. They are the hidden geniuses.

Are you missing the hidden geniuses in your organization? Who are these hidden geniuses?

They are on the down low; their brilliance and creativity go unrecognized. They are potential game-changers, innovators and revolutionary thinkers once discovered.

They are the employees that don’t look like you, sound like you or think like you. Perhaps they once tried to share an idea or provide feedback and were ignored by louder voices, or they were considered too different to be credible.

According to research by Avner Ben-Ner & Amit Kramer from the Carlson School of Management, "People act more favorably towards persons who share with them an important attribute of their identity compared to persons who differ significantly."

That’s tragic! Think of the money, ideas and resources you may be losing every day because you are not tapping into the unseen, unrecognized and hidden geniuses.

Most of the time, we’re not even aware that we’re doing this. But as a great leader, it’s up to you to become aware and notice who’s not being heard or recognized.

If hidden geniuses remain unrecognized and unacknowledged, there is a high probability they will stop trying, be hired away by your competitor, start their own businesses and become your competitor.

What can you do to bring out the brilliance of your diverse workforce and be the great leader you’re mean to be?

Become aware. Here are four clues (symptoms).

1. People in your organization have no place or time to share ideas for new products and services unless they are on the product development team or one of your “go to” stars.

Even if you have a diverse workforce, if people don’t have opportunities to be creative and do their best work, they will never feel included or achieve the highest level of success.

2. Unorthodox solutions are not given a chance. Cross-functional problem solving is not encouraged, and people "stay in their own lane."

3. You talk about diversity, equity and inclusion but you’re resistant to change and think it’s for everyone else. You stay in your comfort zone with people like you.

4. People at all levels are in silos and don’t have the tools, knowledge or cultural permission to find ways to bring out the genius in each other.

Three ways to uncover hidden geniuses in your organization

1. Encourage unconventional solutions through your words and behavior. Solicit ideas from people who don’t always speak up. Consciously seek out people who are different than you, with whom you may not feel comfortable, or haven’t engaged. I call that LBO: "look behind the obvious."

"Deputize" employees. Ask for their help find other colleagues who may not be as visible but who have potential to add great value. Give recognition to the "hidden genius," and to the person who recommended them.

2. Share challenges and best practices with leaders in other organizations and industries, and determine what you can apply.

Allow your mind to be stimulated. Get out of the office. Talk to customers and users of your products and services and ask them what new products, services or add-ons would keep them loyal for life and make them "brag" about you.

Expand your perspective and open possibilities for new markets by getting feedback from people in different segments about what would appeal to them. Hopefully, you already have these people in your organization.

3. Form cross-functional innovation teams that span as many dimensions of diversity as possible and use different types of design thinking that are inclusive.

Begin with a facilitated process for people to get to know each other and get comfortable. Learn and teach everyone how to access diversity of thought so everyone can contribute in different ways.

Don’t let hidden genius stay undercover. Taking a little bit of extra time and being willing to be uncomfortable at times can result in great rewards, create business breakthroughs, and a loyal workforce that ensures your positive legacy for years to come.