Sometimes the most effective leaders within an organization are among the biggest personnel problem an organization faces.  This is too often true because the formal leadership within an organization does not fully comprehend who all of its leaders are.  While organizations try to tap into and nurture individuals that “they” feel possess natural leadership skills, they often fail to recognize an equally important layer of leadership that carries as much, if not more, importance in realizing the highest level of performance the group is capable of achieving.  Informal leaders can be found within most organization and as stated they may be one of your greatest challenges or conversely they may be one of your greatest assets.   Failing to ignore that optimum performance from any group can seldom be obtained if formal leaders do not recognize who fills the informal leadership roles within the various layers of its organization.

Who are informal leaders?  Informal leaders are those individuals within the organization that have been “elected” by their peers to lead and set performance standards.  Typically informal leaders are not titled and if they are, they would be considered low level management.  We have previously defined leadership as being the ability to influence.  Our ability to influence others has also been confirmed to not be necessarily be associated with possessing a title or degree.  So who are your informal leaders?  Maybe it is that employee that comes in on a Monday morning with a great attitude and all the staff follow suit.  Perhaps it’s the same tech that comes into work in a foul mood and the entire group has to tip toe around them to the point of suppressing their joy or contentment for fear of retaliation from this tech.  The informal leaders have the ability to improve the overall performance of the group or to derail productivity.  As leaders it is critical that we take the time to identify these individuals and work with them to the point where they are on board with company policies, practices and vision.  Encouragement and periodic reward for their services to the group is essential.

Note:  Informal leaders don’t necessarily need to be promoted; just recognized and appreciated.

It is the effective management of informal leaders that allows formal leaders to assure the performance of the collective group is moving in the direction of an organization’s goals.  Good informal leaders can help make your organization be a better place to work.