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Capitalise on the Power of Your Informal Leaders

You may be recognised as the formal leader in the organisation either by your title or by the length of time you have spent in your role.

As a leader or manager of people, you are most likely actively looking for the most effective way to mobilise your people and produce consistently outstanding results.

Luckily, you are sitting on a hidden gold mine of talent and skills. To achieve the results you want, it is imperative you are informed and educated about this wealth of human capital that sits within your reach.

One key way to mobilise the talent within your team members is to sufficiently recognise that there are informal leaders within your work group or team that you need to be aware of. By being aware of these often charismatic and influential members of your team, you can find ways to partner with them to initiate substantial change in the organisation.

So, what makes an informal leader?

Although informal leadership has been recognised as a key component within organisational development and structure, it is still quite a new topic for some to be acquainted with.

While informal leaders are not designated by the organisation, they frequently wield extensive power and influence because of their ability to help other team members satisfy needs and reach goals. They are automatically sought out for advice and help when a colleague experiences a problem. They are often outstanding team members with common sense and loyalty to the company. They can contribute a great deal to your success and the success of your team when you entrust them with additional responsibility and actively help them develop their abilities and competencies even further.

Do you know someone in your organisation who fits this description?

It is likely you have an informal leader in your midst who is waiting to be developed and utilised. As the formal leader, you have a choice to harness the power of informal leaders to increase performance and productivity and better integrate positive influences on workplace performance into your organisation.

Successfully directing the energy and influence of these informal leaders into constructive work can turn the force and authority of these individuals into noticeable benefits for the entire organisation. Here are a few directions you take when you chose to act on the power your informal leaders hold within your team and organisation:

  1. Actively Seek Out Informal Leaders

Because authentic informal leaders are often not recognised as such, they are frequently overlooked when it comes to driving culture and promoting positive change. It is possible to better identify your informal leaders through regular performance interviews, surveys and tools such as an organisational network analysis. Once you have identified the reach and hidden skills of your informal leader, inform them that they will be receiving more training or development in the future as part of a larger plan for their career path and choices. In doing so, you have acknowledged your informal leader and tacitly have encouraged them to be a positive influencer within the organisation through your trust in them.

  1. Keep Open Line of Communication

The leader contributes to the security of the group by providing information readily and openly with their team members. At the same time, an informal leader will naturally wish to be included in the communication of the decisions being made within the company. While you may not be able to share everything with them, it is useful to consider their opinion and influence when decisions are being handed down from upper management. Their insight and influence within the employee network can be invaluable when trying to gauge reaction to intended changes or developments that will affect all staff. Use your informal leaders as barometers regarding changes within the organisation and gain powerful insights into the culture around you and what behaviours are likely to lead to improvement and acceptance within all staff.

  1. Consider Promoting, but Not as a Given

One option you have for your informal leaders is to promote them to higher positions of power, thereby moving their informal influence into more of a formal. While it may seem that promoting informal leaders to formal positions of power makes logical sense, it can also be a case of too much power and not enough training or preparation. Furthermore, formal authority may alter the relationships of the new formal leader with his or her peers. Take all repercussions and benefits into account before proceeding with a promotion of influential informal leaders. Carefully consider the stage of development the informal leader is at before considering a promotion or leadership position for them.

  1. Utilise your Early Adopting Informal Leaders

Early adopters enthusiastically latch onto and experiment with new technologies and new processes. By involving them in performance pilots or developments in technology or processes, you are entrusting them to be the first to experience and evaluate changes and provide their insight into these changes. By doing so, you are fulfilling their desire to be more involved with important decisions and development, while you also gain a support system for the changes you are intending to implement with a sturdy influencer behind it.

In summary, welcome the emergence of informal group leaders. Win their loyalty and support. Entrust them with meaningful responsibility. Using these powerful strategies expands your influence and encourages maximum motivation among your team members.

Want to learn more about developing your team members? Download LMA’s free eBook Understanding Effective Teamwork to understand more about how to prepare your team to gain leadership experience and position themselves for advancement and promotion.