Should Your Company Have Informal Leadership?

Look around you – who do you really consider a leader in your workplace?

For a long time, leadership traditionally meant strict company-focused people in suit jackets only thinking about optimization and profit. But nowadays, many organizations focus more so on informal leadership that s more free-flowing and less rigid. For some companies, this works great! For others, not so much. 

While at times informal leadership may seem like a great thing – it can take a larger toll on employee well-being than you would think. Today we ll be taking a look at the pros and cons of informal leadership. Focusing on understanding how you can transform your company to accept more informal leadership while maintaining an environment of healthy employee well-being.  

If you want to learn more about how to naturally establish leadership in the workplace, why not start with a custom-made employee handbook or culture guide made to inspire? With our talented team at AirMason, we re the leading employee handbook creator in the industry – designed to make your employee experience as seamless and motivating as possible. We can even help you create a well-thought-out section on employee well-being and strategies to nurture it. Take a look at our sample handbooks today and get started crafting the handbook of your dreams!


What exactly is the informal leader?

You know about your formal leaders – the ones in charge who are meant to inspire. The question is, do they really? Or do you just see them as the person who delegates tasks and more than likely power trips? Realistically, there s probably someone in your workplace or team who you look up to as a true leader – even if they re missing the title. 

This person inspires you, they make you want to work harder and be better. If there is anyone who you genuinely want to listen to when it comes to how and when to do your work – it s them. While these people play a huge role in the development of your company, it s also important to check up on their well-being. Informal leaders carry a great sense of responsibility and weight on their shoulders – sometimes to their detriment. Indeed describes informal leadership as:

an individual’s ability to be perceived as a leader because of their reputation, credibility and influence in the workplace. Individuals within an organization view informal leaders as worthy of following or listening to. While informal leadership don’t hold a position of power within their organization and don’t control who follows them, they can still influence those around them.


Pros of Informal Leadership

There are always going to be pros and cons to consider when there are different forces of who employees at a company consider a leader. Especially when one is a designated leader and the other is only considered so by others. It s important to look at the benefits and negatives of having an informal leader in the workplace and if it can work in your company. Discussion oriented site Vylogue lists the pros of what they believe an informal leader brings to the table:

  • Pride Builders. These are the ultimate motivators of the people around them. They will empower, improve, and inspire those in their team and continuously and naturally motivate others through their words and own work.
  • Idealistic. Just as the name suggests, they are the role models of the team. They drive ideas and push those around them to constantly be creative and think outside of the box. Being around a leader like this will surprise you at how much you can suddenly accomplish.

  • Social Communicators and Networkers. These types of leaders bring the whole team together. They bring out the best in others to bring forward ideas they never before thought of. They generally have a strong network of people who are good communicators and know how to collaborate and push each other to reach new heights. They energize you and make you come out of your comfort zone. 
  • Early Adopters. This leader does not hesitate. They feel no fear when it comes to adopting new ideas that may otherwise seem unconventional or risky. They push the boundaries of what they can achieve for their company and experiment with new thought processes and technologies to improve their work, encouraging those around them to do the same. 

Stephen Covey s book The 8th Habit speaks on the effects an informal leader has on those around them. In his book, he summarizes an effective informal leader as, communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it themselves. This is a great way of showcasing the ultimate potential an informal leader has on their peers.

Cons of Informal Leadership

Now that you ve heard all of the exciting reasons why informal leadership can make a huge impact in your company – with the good comes the bad. Informal leadership just doesn t work in every company. There are a lot of factors surrounding this. especially based on what kind of company you have and how it s run. However, the top reason also is that being an informal leader may sound great, but it can truly come at a cost to their well-being. Now it s time to jump right into the cons of the role of an informal leader:

  • Burnout is Real. An informal leader may feel as though they have to take on the weight of way more than is assigned to them – including the entire team – to fulfill their role. In doing so, they create a detriment to their mental well-being as they start to become drained out. There is research that shows that the rise and grind mindset can harm personal health and career development. It s crucial to notice these signs early on and avoid burnout at the cost of employee well-being.
  • They Are Taken Advantage Of. Oftentimes, the boss will notice the role that an informal leader is taking and the positive effect it is having on the team and will delegate much more responsibility and tasks to them. While being acknowledged for the hard work an employee is doing is important – it s unfair if they re taking on more work without directly being recognized for a leadership role. This can lead to a dramatic increase in energy levels of the informal leader as well as their mental well-being.
  • Disconnect and Misalignment from the Team. Now it all may seem great at first. But after a while of being a formal leader without being titled as one and gaining all the benefits that come from it – informal leaders begin to feel the strain. It begins to become a game of tug-of-war between the push towards being given more responsibility than those around them and the pull over the fact that they have no real authority. It can be extremely difficult for an informal leader s mental well-being if they are doing just as much, if not more than a formal manager, but receive none of the credit.

Are you prepared to have informal leadership in your company?

Now while the role of an informal leader may actually sound great in your workplace, you have to ask yourself – can that work in my company? You have to be truly prepared in every sense of the way. First and foremost, have the right employee well-being initiatives in place to make sure your employees aren t in a position where they may become frustrated or isolated. 

Are you ready to potentially promote someone who has the potential to be an informal leader? Would you give over responsibilities that were directly meant for formal managers to informal leaders? If not – you may not be prepared for the consequences that come with the transition from employee to informal leader. Most importantly, you don t want to put your employees in a position where their mental well-being suffers. 

If you want to learn more about how to prepare your employees for the idea of having informal leaders in the workplace but don t want to do it over email – consider creating a section just for this in a custom-made employee handbook! With AirMason, we can help you list out the pros and cons in a thoughtful way to your employees and mental well-being strategies associated with them in a beautifully made handbook. 

If you re curious about learning more about AirMason and what an employee handbook can do for you, book a free demo with our sales staff today to see how and why AirMason is the most trusted employee handbook software in the world!

Tehsin Bhayani

AirMason was born when Tehsin was trying to create a digital culture book, but couldn’t find any solutions in the market that had all the features he needed. In 2016, AirMason officially launched. In five years, AirMason has created thousands of handbooks for more than 1,000 clients around the world.

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