How many times have you known someone within your company that had a lot of influence over decisions even though they had no title? I have known several and have recognized their immense value to the company. These people can influence and energize others without relying on a formal position in the organization to do so.
Often referred to as informal leaders, I consider them to be critical to the success of every company. They are powerful resources that can be instrumental in spreading critical positive behaviors from the bottom up. Below are four that I find most common in companies today:
Dignity builders are really master motivators of other people and catalysts for improvement around them. They are often found in the role of a line manager, but they can be found at all levels, and they understand what drives those with whom they work.
They know how to empower a sense of excellence among others. Many of the most effective dignity builders are in the rank and file, where they can interact directly with customers as well as other employees. Dignity builders often have an extensive vision of the culture and about what behaviors are likely to lead to improvement.
Paradigm shifters are effective role models. They bring demonstrated critical behaviors or skills to the environment in ways that others will observe them and pay attention. They are often located in middle or senior management positions. They are well respected and effective peer influencers up and down the communications lines of the company.
Turbo Networkers are at the center of personal communication within the organization. They are connected internally, externally and across silos, also. They communicate freely and openly with everyone. They serve as conduits among people who might not otherwise share information or ideas. Tapping the Turbo Networkers to generate buzz can go a long way in getting a message distributed rapidly.
Bleeding Edge Adopters are the people who excitedly experiment with new technologies, processes, and ways of working. They love the adrenaline that flows when tackling a new issue or finding a new, more effective way to do tasks within the company. They are patient in finding ways they can effectively use the new technology or process. They love to share that knowledge with others on a regular basis. I would suggest you engage them in any new pilot programs, or whenever you are looking to demonstrate impact quickly.
When you engage any informal leaders in your organization you can expect positive and effective growth when done authentically and transparently. In their roles, they may have very little formal influence but they generally love helping people.
You can spot an “informal leader” by watching how they walk around the building, talk with the engineers, managers, maintenance technicians, administrators, and operators while listening intently and taking copious notes. They love to share conversations and ideas while doing their normal work duties.
As a result, they know everyone and develop relationships across disciplines. Whenever someone wants to know how the team really works, they will talk to a well-known informal leader, who will either have the answer in their head, in a file or know precisely the right person to ask.
They can connect people, define models to encourage collaboration, and capture success stories. As a leader, I encourage you to Identify, engage, and nurture any and all informal leaders. Understand how to reward and acknowledge their efforts so they remain positive and supportive of the organization. Avoid idolizing them and creating entitled attitudes in the process. Done correctly this will allow your company to harness their talents and further the company’s transformation efforts.
For insights to help you grow using informal leaders, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.