Leaders lead. Followers follow. And then there’s The Unheard Third: The people in the middle who, for one reason or another, fall through the leadership cracks when they’re passed through or passed over. These latent leaders are the next generation achievers whose potential has yet to, or may never be, turned into performance: Failing to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack, they just blend into the background,. They’re leaders, but just not yet. Left untended, The Unheard Third grows more and more disengaged, discontented and disheartened. Eventually, they become just another retention statistic.

There are millions of people who are waiting to make a contribution, who are enthusiastic about their work and their lives: They are waiting to let the rest of the world know about both. And companies can either tap into their enormous potential, or waste a precious resource and lose a competitive advantage.

So why do these folks languish under the radar, unrecognized and unrewarded? Though it’s not for lack of talent, skill or intelligence the reasons are still plentiful. Remember: un-mined does not imply incapable. (Could one of these describe you?

They don’t quite qualify for the high potential track. They haven’t yet learned the skills to stand up and stand out-to get the recognition they deserve.

They don’t know where they’re going or, if they do, they don’t know how to get there (grab a mentor, please).

They’re disengaged in their careers-what they have to offer is de-valued, untraditional or under-utilized so they haven’t put their skin in the game.

They just don’t see themselves as leadership material or they don’t identify with the word “leadership”. (This is particularly problematic for women who are fully two thirds of The Unheard Third).

As the middle child in the organizational family, The Unheard Third is virtually invisible to the people who can positively influence their careers because, in actuality, they themselves feel invisible. Akin to the middle child in a family of origin, this group refuses to be categorized, is independent by nature and often has a sense of not belonging.

Failing to fit neatly into traditional definitions of leadership, they are needlessly discarded or ignored, more out of efficiency and convenience than for any other reason: Like it or not, most companies simply run smoother when things are nice and neat and tidy. But nice and neat and tidy betrays creativity, innovation and growth. In fact, The Unheard Third obstinately refusing to fit into an uninspired model of leadership might be precisely what is needed to shake up your organization and incite change.

Let’s face it-there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all genius: We each arrive with our own brand of brilliance and never is this more crucial than when business is tough or times troubling. Looking at The Unheard Third through the lens of opportunity, this population is an invitation to dismantle the status quo and to explore rich resources and previously disregarded talent in the most unlikely of places. This group teaches us the consummate lesson in diversity by being, well… diverse. They demand we broaden our definition of leadership. They remind us of the value of commitment, and the price we pay for forgetting that. By far it’s greatest contribution to the workplace lies with the fact that The Unheard Third is the ultimate study of the do’s and don’ts of engagement-the intrapersonal and interpersonal relationship between individuals, their work, their purpose and their passion.