The Strategist

The Power Behind the Throne

06/11/2015 - 17:55

An informal leader is not a position, holders of this talent won’t describe it in a resume. Once in the community, informal leaders are equally capable to improve the atmosphere and make discord among the staff. What to do if you’ve got an informal leader in your team: dismiss or try to negotiate? How to get close to the office shadow director?
Every group has "leader - followers" relationship. The leader may be formal or informal. A manager is the formal position of authority: the status of the chief is supported by rules, regulations and instructions. An informal leader affects people regardless of their place in the corporate hierarchy and relies only on his authority and relationships established with colleagues. It’s easy to recognize the office’s head – they usually take a separate room, give orders and demand the results on time. At the time, things get hard when we try to make out the power behind the throne. Outwardly, he may not differ from his colleagues, but expertly bend them to his ideas. Sometimes even the employees themselves may not realize the extent of his influence, but turn to the informal in case of a difficult situation first, and discuss work plans with them more actively than at official meetings.

Where did they come from? Some HRs believe that the emergence of the informal leader is a pattern of any team. Indeed, apart from the official authorities, people tend to establish informal relationships. And what would be a remarkable leader of any standing at the helm, the shadow director still will emerge in the team.

Other experts, by contrast, argue that informal leaders show up in such an office environment, where the head is missing some of its functions. And the informal leader quietly takes them over – he’s just a downside of the formal head. If your company has adopted a hard authoritarian style of leadership, and authorities are not able to establish friendly relations with subordinates, then the team will respond with sociable and charming "opposition", which will remove the tension in the relationship, listen to all and soothe them.

A too soft, amenable to the opinion of others, manager will trigger the emergence of an authoritarian leader who is able to make a decision for everyone.

Most managers are of the opinion that their leaders need to be encouraged and motivated. It is fully justified to set the informal leader in favorable conditions for the common goal of the company. After all, they are agents of information in a team, strengthen team spirit, help with adaptation of new employees.

But along with those nice guys, there are also destructive ones directing their influence to undermine the authority of the official leader, sabotage decisions, oppose any change and reduce the efficiency of the whole office.

Specialists in Human Resources developed several ways of dealing with these informals: for example, rush them off their feet or transfer to another department. If those methods fails, HRs advise systematically undermine the leader reputation, compromise him in the eyes of the staff and then dismiss.
But there is also the opposite view that the problem can not be solved simply by the dismissal of the informal leader. Recall the law of conservation of energy: in the physical world, nothing comes out of nowhere and disappear into nowhere. Just there is a transition from one incarnation to another. If the root causes of destructive leadership cannot be solved, the situation will be repeated.

It is believed that a chief, feeling uncertainty in their own credibility and professionalism, will always try to eliminate the informal leader. Wise leaders will be able to acknowledge their weakness and some incompetence in the management.

The best way to make up with the informal leader – turn them into formal leaders. And any man who received authority to become an ordinary chief who gives orders and demands of their execution, will be a better leader by aligning his state of mind with the position.


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