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.


That’s right.  You are a leader.  Not because of your title. Not because of your position on the Deacon board neither because you have father 3 wonderful children.  You are a leader because you are.  Independent of all the accomplishments around you, independent of your natural leadership talents you are a leader.

Maybe for some this idea of your ability to be a leader seems unrealistic.  Maybe you have shied away from any activity or opportunity that would thrust you into the sphere of leadership.  And then there are others of you that whole heartedly concur with the premise that you are a leader.  You probably see yourself as a leader in many different areas of your life, whether at home or at the “office”.

The reality is that all of us have the ability to be a leader.  Leaders aren’t born leaders; they are born little babies that have all the fundamental needs of a pinkie (a newborn mouse).  When was the last time you saw a pinkie leading a charge against anything.  Just like that little pinkie, we have to grow, learn and be nurtured.  The reality is that we can all develop into leaders; leaders in all areas of our lives.  Sure some of us may never lead a charge against the opposition but most of us will have a chance to demonstrate influence in multiple areas of our lives.

Now for those of you that do see yourself as a leader…Awesome!!!  But bear with me as I ask you why.  And before you answer the question please don’t tell me it’s because you have some title of authority or you have achieved success academically.  True leadership never comes from a title or because of gained possessions.  Have you ever met a manager that couldn’t manage well or a parent that struggled as a parent?  The hard reality is that if you consider yourself to be a leader, you are because you worked at.  And as much as I would love to give everyone an “Easy Button” there is no such thing for leaders.  Being a leader will take time and energy and determination and persistence, practice and patience.  And unfortunately promotions of epic proportion, good genetics or a nurturing environment (helpful though they may be) are not strong predictors of your leadership potential.

And here is the good news; our ability to be a leader and not just a leader but a good leader lies completely in our ability to understand what skills it takes to be a leader and pursue after it as if your life depends on it.   Maybe your life will not depend on you being a good leader, but someone else’s life may.

So for those of you that are leaders, congratulations keep doing what you do and for those of you, who have not quite unleashed that leader inside of you, go for it, you can do it we believe in you and we need you.


Leadership is your ability to inspire and influence the people.  Although some may be born with nature leadership traits, true leadership comes from learning and can be practiced by anyone who has the willingness to put aside his or her personal interests for the best interests of the team. Great leaders know that everyone on their team has a significant role to play in achieving the goal.  It’s a leader’s responsibility to facilitate bringing out the best effort of those around them.

When applied consistently, following principles will help you achieve continuous success as a leader:

You Matter.  Lead now because your leadership is needed now more than ever.

Set challenging goals and expect the best from your team. Goals will help create a sense of purpose and urgency.

You go first.  Lead by example.  Your team needs to know which way to go and that the way is clear.

Hire the right people and assign tasks based on individual strengths and capabilities. Each team member needs to know their role.

Let your team know you care.  Show them with both word and actions.

Help your team create a set of ground rules describing behaviors they want and don't want as they work together.  A self-regulated team frees up the leaders time to plan and create vision.

Build trust along the way.  You can’t do much of anything on your own.  Trust can be hard to achieve and easy to lose.  Be a person worthy of another’s’ trust.

Don't de-motivate your team by over-managing their efforts, but do give them both positive and constructive feedback on their performance.  You hired them to do a job now let them go and do it.

Listen to your team's ideas and suggestions, as well as their concerns and complaints. Take their comments seriously and act upon their input.  Every member of the team has a voice that needs to be heard.

Celebrate your team's successes. Recognize individuals, as well as the team collectively for their efforts and accomplishments.  Don’t wait for permission to recognize your people, even if you have to sacrifice some of your personal resources to do so.

Finally always remember that good leaders are constantly growing and learning.  Take the time to read, learn what it takes to be better at leading and then go make a difference for you and your team.


AuthorCaroline Thompson

Historically the concept of enrichment in the laboratory animal research community has focused primarily on nonhuman primates and the provision of novelty and complexity to their living environments, ultimately leading to more species typical behaviors. Governmental regulations also require the opportunity for exercise for canines that live in housing environments that don’t allow significant levels of activity. Although regulations do not require the provision of enrichment to many of the species commonly used in laboratory animal medicine, there is a universal trend to provide enrichment to all species when possible. Case Study A large produce truck pulls up to the loading dock with the week’s delivery of fresh produce…huge strawberries, perfectly ripe bananas, watermelons at the peak of their ripeness and the biggest mangos one could imagine. Julius, on his first day of work, was being given a tour of the animal facility. Seeing the fruit, he thought he was working in the best place ever because employees got all these great fruits. After several weeks of orientation, he was given the task of working the loading dock on a Monday morning when animals and produce were delivered to this facility. Although adequately trained in working the loading dock, he was paired with a seasoned employee. When the produce truck arrived, Julius asked his colleague where the produce went, since he had never seen any in the staff break room. He was told that it went to the primates for their enrichment. As if he could read Julius’ mind, he quickly added that the fruit was not for the employees, who would be reprimanded if caught eating any. Julius, being a model employee, complied but did have the passing thought that it would be nice if the employees could get just a little.

What Do You Think? Do you really need enrichment? If you do, what would/does human enrichment look like for you? Would just a piece of fruit do? Would something more substantial, like a bonus or a raise work better? When we talk about human enrichment, do we mean environmental enrichment like we provide to animals or simply the general enrichment of humans? A literature search on human enrichment resulted in a variety of articles ranging from recovering from trauma, understanding universal consciousness and improving a student’s ability to progress successfully through school. The literature search revealed no universal definition for human enrichment. So our challenge is to define what human enrichment is for those of us working in laboratory animal environments, to make that definition relevant to the human experience, and not to extrapolate too heavily from what we have learned from the provision of enrichment to laboratory animals.

Do humans need to be enriched? More specifically, do you and I need to be enriched during our daily work experience? If we accept our initial definition of enrichment as the provision of novelty and complexities to a given situation, we can see that there are many situations that would constitute enrichment in our daily lives. The birth of a baby, a new car, moving to a new home, starting a new eating regimen, developing a hobby, starting a new job, reading a book, traveling to new cultures, and learning a new language are just a few activities that potentially provide enrichment. These things add value to our lives and make us feel good.

What would constitute enrichment in the work setting? If we can define the minimum requirements for a work setting, we can see what might be enriching at work. Is there a minimum standard that is ideal for any work situation? Tom Wujec, in his book Return on Imagination: Realizing the Power of Ideas, states that people move into a flow of efficiency when the challenge of the job is just above the skill level. Malcolm Gladwell states in his book Outliers that the keys to a fulfilling job are autonomy, complexity and a connection between effort and reward. I find these two lines of thought to be complimentary. Find a job you like to do, get the training required to perform your job and then find opportunities to maximize your skill sets: you are on your way to “flow”. Add to that the appropriate recognition for work done well, and you have the ideal job.

I believe it is in the area of “connection between effort and reward” that we find the realm of human enrichment in the work place. Proper job assignments and training are extremely important in any work environment and represent the basic foundation of satisfying work; how we are recognized can be that one factor that makes all the difference.

Several studies have been done to answer the question, “What is the ideal form of recognition?” To my sur-prise, the results of these studies unanimously determined that the most significant form of recognition is a non-monetary demonstration of appreciation for work done. The challenge for those in management posi-tions is to find what forms of recognition can be considered adequate enrichment to create and maintain the ideal work environment.

What forms of recognition can lead to positive stimulation of the work experience? Money is a good place to start, for certainly receiving adequate pay for the job done is desired by all. But, as the study revealed, money is not the greatest form of enrichment. Advancement is a way to demonstrate recognition and appreciation. Offering variety to the work experience can also be a demonstration of appreciation. Award programs, advanced training, employer sponsored social gatherings, informative staff meetings where information is freely shared and healthy dialog is encouraged are additional ways in which recognition/enrichment can be given.

Ultimately for humans, enrichment needs to make us feel valued and good about the contribution we are making. We can deduce that enrichment, when appropriately given to animals, may make them feel good, but we don’t have to make assumptions about what works and what doesn’t work as effective enrichment for us. For some, it’s money; for others, it’s the opportunity to share ideas and see them implemented; others just want a handshake and a sincere thank you for a job well done. As with animals, there is not one form of enrichment that works for all. Some days, a banana just will not do, and then there are other days when a banana will hit the spot. We should take the time to think about what kind of enrichment works for us and share that information with those who are empowered to provide it.

You never know, someday there may be a banana at work -- just for you!

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