Authentic, honest and inspiring, informal leaders are often more popular than bosses in a working team. Their qualities affect change. Companies therefore have every interest in taking advantage of informal leaders to improve their workplace. These informal leaders can be very determining in a call centre or customer service environment.
The informal leader is an employee that influences and motivates his colleagues without holding any positions of authority within the company. “These are the people who naturally have a gift for communication and emotional intelligence. They are able to understand others,” says the director of the Leadership Management Institute, Eric Paquette. With this kind of positive attitude, they often succeed in mobilizing teams better than anyone.
To benefit from this, we must first identify them, something many bosses fail to do by not being sufficiently present on the floor, states Paquette. Once this natural leader is spotted, the vision, mission and values of the organization should be well communicated to them. If the employee understands and adheres to their role, their commitment to the company will significantly increase, says Paul Rousseau, coach and lecturer in leadership.
These people often put their passion and talents in service of others, whether colleagues, bosses or customers, which can make the difference between an ordinary and an incredible job experience.
The boss may use these informal leaders to motivate and energize the workplace environment. A wise boss would do well in seeking their advice when it comes time to start a new project or make an organizational change. Their opinion, which must be valued, gives an accurate portrait of how the team will welcome, or not, various decisions.
By gaining this employee’s trust, through transparency and respect, it is much easier to ensure harmony within the company, as the leader directly influences the opinions of his or her colleagues. Meetings with them should be informal, however, as not to give the impression that they are getting any special treatment for their participation. It’s also very important not to try and manipulate this employee: if they feel used, they can use their influence over the organization in an unfavourable manner.
Leaders of Tomorrow
If the informal leader is willing to accept it, the boss can gradually delegate more responsibilities their way, through small projects or by inviting them to speak to others. “The good manager will know whether that person is ready or not before they know it themselves!” says Rousseau.
Not everyone wants to become a manager, but those natural leaders, already respected, often have excellent potential to move up the ladder. “If there is a positive leader and he does not change his behaviour, he will have better credibility because others are already following and appreciating him,” says Paquette.
So the real challenge for the manager is to identify these natural leaders and encourage them to develop their full potential and create a leveraging effect in motivating employees within the organization. Far from being a threat to any boss, the informal leader can become their best asset!