Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Informal leadership, a necessity

Leadership is one of the principal functions of management that provides direction for a company. A leader influences, inspires, guides, leads and directs other members towards achieving the goal of an organization. He/She impacts employee motivation, their performance, quality of their decisions and is, unarguably one of the major factors that decides the eventual success of the organization.
A leader's role in an organization can be formally assigned by his or her position, like manager or project lead, and it can also be informally assumed by an employee who possesses certain qualities that makes others follow him/her. Informal leaders possess strong charisma, a positive attitude, motivates others and put in effort to attain organizational goals.

Important difference between formal and informal leader is that formal leader is officially required to manage his team and is responsible for results at the end. Informal leader do not have any such official responsibility towards attaining the goals of the enterprise and may not be accountable for the final results.

An organisation can benefit immensely by encouraging its employees to take up the role of an informal leader. Some of the perks are-    
·   Team members often address concerns and issues with informal leaders that are not shared with managers. They might be more comfortable with sharing their problems with a person who doesn’t have an official authority and will not affect their careers adversely.

·   Top leaders as well as formal authority figures have a number of issues that they need to focus on. A person with informal authority, however, is free to focus on smaller issues or a singular issue. It helps in giving a serious time focus on these issues and ease the work load of formal leaders.

·   Formal authority operates within hierarchy and protocols. Informal leadership doesn’t have such restrictions. They are not shackled by policies or protocols. This freedom can be advantageous to the organization in many aspects.

·   Informal leadership has the freedom to not always be politically correct or do the popular thing. They need not be figure heads or role models. They have the freedom to voice their views and what they deem right.

·   Informal leaders are important to any change initiative. They can influence the other members by making them more adaptable and accepting of the change.

·   They have a first hand knowledge of how policies and process influence employees. They can observe/interact with the employees and give valuable feedback to the management about what works and what does not.

Informal authority has its advantages, but also limits. Since an informal leader can be anyone in the team, the groups might tend to choose a leader based on superficial reasons. Informal leaders also cannot exercise any sort of authority in order to get tasks done, which can become frustrating for them. The informal style may also led to development of many power centres and can lead to confusion among employees. If they are not on the same page as the formal leadership, they may create a negative vibe that impedes progress and become a liability to the organization.

In any organization, it is vital you ensure that both the formal and informal roles are filled. You should make sure that there is free and candid communication flow between the two and that the differences between them do not affect the team adversely. It is, hence, prudent for those in the management to take an active role in assigning and taking care of the informal leaders in the organization. Some of the ways which you can aid and encourage informal leadership are-

·   Once the informal leaders are officially identified, you should ask them to take responsibility for an initiative. Your confidence in them would boost the results they achieve.

·   You should understand your informal leaders' strengths and weaknesses and allow them to define their own role.

·   Management should certainly reward informal leaders for their support. This could be financial incentives or public recognitions.

·   Give importance to their inputs and concerns, and make them a part of your strategy decisions. With them inside the decision loop, they will feel a sense of ownership and will be more willing to actively support your decisions.

·   You should have developmental assignments in your organization to push more people into taking up informal leadership roles.

·   You can conduct leadership development program for your informal leaders. Remember,  the informal leaders of today might be the formal leaders of your organization in the future. You can empower them with the knowledge which will expand their capabilities.

Successful organizations need both informal and formal leaders in order to keep power and authority balanced. It is an essential partnership. Understanding the distinction between formal and informal roles and taking them forward in tandem, will give you powerful tool to help your teams’ progress. When informal leaders are working towards achieving the goals with the same vision as the formal leaders, they can take a tremendous burden from the backs of managers and formal leaders. Informal leaders, if handled suitably and sensitively can turn out to be precious resources that are extremely advantageous for your organ