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Inspiration, Tools & Tips!                                           JULY 2021


The Informal Leader

Working Selfishly and Possibly Antagonistically?

Your informal leader may appear to be more influential than you are as the primary leader in your organization, church, or department. Because they are in a leadership role, you assume they are “good to go.” That’s a phrase my chiefs used to use when I was in the Navy. Another thing they used to say to me is, “LT, when you assume, you make an “a--” out of “u” and “me.” 
Don’t bank on the fact that your informal leader will always support you, no matter what the initiative or process improvement change may be. I have seen many times when the informal leader was an enormous problem because the formal leader was not paying attention. Problems can arise because the informal leader is able to sabotage and/or undermine your efforts, both unintentionally and sometimes intentionally. Many times, you don’t even know it.

Welcome back. Did you get the chance to give some thought to the idea of the informal leader? Were you able to identify the one or ones that exist in your organization/church? Did you come to the realization that you are an informal leader? As pointed out last month, the informal leader can take one of two paths in the organization. We discussed how the informal leader can be a great asset. This month we will discuss how to 
encourage and empower the leader who opposes the leadership. We will talk about what steps you should take and refrain from taking. Next month we will discuss what to do if you are the informal leader.

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As a recap, the informal leader emerges because he/she demonstrates shared interest among the formal leaders and her/his peers. This employee contributes ideas and offers feedback regarding management decisions. Employers and peers listen to an informal leader because of their perceived experience and reputation. The informal leader does not hold any position of formal authority or power over the peers choosing to follow their lead; however, she/he can influence the decisions of others. This can create a perspective, for the employees, that the informal leader is almost on equal footing with the formal leadership. Organizations that use informal leaders can also run into difficulties because the informal leader can cause delays to productivity if he/she has contradictory opinions. They can:
• Be a source of conflict within the organization.
• Cause a lot of wasted/idle time as they talk with their peers during work time.
• Muddy the “grapevine” with talk that causes confusion, anxiety, and animosity.
• Cause a ripple effect of poor practices, as they initiate new employees into culture.
• Be a source of resistance to compliance and to change.
If formal leadership tries to give each opinion value, they may be unable to reach a conclusion or make a decision. When that happens, the other employees can become confused about who truly makes the final decisions and how far the informal leader’s authority extends. This confusion can lead to employees being dissatisfied with their jobs, having lower productivity, and being insubordinate.

Though this information seems to rain on the parade of the informal leaders as an asset. It does not have to be. You can mitigate the negative influence of the informal leader. 
1. Have a conversation with the informal leader to discuss your concerns. Listen to what he/she has to say; the behavior can be deliberate or accidental. Her/his response will give you the next step you should take.

2. If your informal leader is unaware he/she is accidentally causing problems, you can help by being an excellent leader. Here are a couple of tools you can use.
• First, you can use the information provided in the June 2020 Newsletter on Conflict Resolution/Management Skills to help you resolve the conflict properly.
• Then you can use the information provided in last month’s newsletter to help him/her become an informal leader who is an asset.

3. If your informal leader is aware, and he/she is purposefully creating problems, there are some things you can try.
• Negotiate openly with the entire team. If you don’t pay attention to your team, the informal leader will take on more power and influence. Engage your people in open discussions on projects and problems. By doing so, it will force the informal leader to share her/his opinions openly. Ask for everyone’s input and make sharing a non-threatening task. You will can bring up your pros and cons in advance, before they form the collective opinion behind the scenes. 
• Limit the communication of the informal leader when necessary. Share responsibilities between all the group members/employees, so decisions on different questions are not dependent on the informal leader. 
• Increase the workload of the informal leader also helps. If he/she is over engaged, there won’t be time for as much conversation.
• Ask the informal leader to compete a very important and complicated and task. The more complicated, the better. Please do not insult her/him by making something up. This task needs to be real and necessary that is also complicated. Explain that it is very complicated. However, it is also an opportunity to show her/his uniqueness. This challenge may keep the informal leader too busy to plot and plan, at least temporarily. Use this time to clear up any blurred lines of authority. 
• In the worst case, move the informal leader to another department, if possible, before referring them to HR. Maybe a different leadership style can steer them in the right direction.

Often, informal leaders start out well, and something happens. There are several freebies this month that identify informal leaders, how they can become detrimental, and what you can do to minimize the negative effects.



Business Application


From a business standpoint, especially if you are a small business owner, the effects of a negative informal leader can be devastating. You should have guidelines in place to deal with that influence. Even with the guidelines, you can do things to enhance the chances of success in informal leadership situations. Keep in mind the owner and front-line 


Ministry Application

This month we are going to look at the information given, last month, for effective informal leaders within the church and address what to do when he/she gets off track. The most interesting thing about this topic is the informal leader is not the one we need to look at to resolve this issue. It is the pastor/servant leader. The bible also has instruction on this as well.




Personal Application 

We will use the information given, last month, from a personal perspective to help you decided what do to when you are a part of a team what has an ineffective informal leader. Remember, as a team member, you took part in identifying the informal leader. You helped decide what person you wanted to have informal power and authority.


Pamela Russell Ministry Information

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While you may not be able to stop the informal leader from undermining completely, as a leader, you can reduce these incidents. The key is not to take for granted that just because someone is in a leadership role, informal or formal, they automatically support everything you do. You have to cultivate a culture where undermining, sabotage, and backstabbing are immediately rejected and professionalism is the norm. When you do that, an informal leader will emerge who will be professional, supportive, and respectful.


If you have questions or need any assistance, email us.  You can also call us @ 904-830-0737. You can also set up a free consultation

"Leadership is about solving problems. They have either lost confidence that you can help or conclude you do not care. Either case is a failure on leadership.”

-Colin Powell


MORE From Business Development 

managers have to be the model of effective leadership in the company. Here are some steps you can take:
• Find out what the fine line is between being over/under controlling or macro/micro-managing. Rather than rushing to outline a series of next steps and impose your solution, ask for ideas. Then you may have to use some persuasion and even negotiation (some ‘give and take’) in the event of resistance.

• If you can help others see what you need from them, you’ll be more likely to get it. Many times, it is best to allow your informal leader to decide how to complete the task. 

• Where and when possible, figure out ways to help the informal leader help you - make it easier for him to work with you. 

 • If your informal leader is young, whether in age, on the job and/or with the company, help them take time to find out ‘how things happen’ in your organization. 

• As you see the informal leader emerging (and you will if you are paying attention) reach out to her and build rapport. There is no substitute for investing deeply in the relationships of people you work most closely with. This is critical and needs time & patience. 

• Take care to understand/address the concerns of the informal leader. He can impact any change that you will recommend. 

• Be consistent in your behavior and honor/keep your commitments. People trust and want to work with leaders who don’t hide their mistakes, make up stories, invent cover-ups, or always blame others. Those who step up, own a problem, and work to fix it build relationship capital and this will give the informal leader confidence in you and in the relationship.

• Build your relationship with the informal leader authentically, without manipulation. Follow Stephen Covey’s advice of “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” Take some time to speak with the informal leader before you have a formal team meeting. Find out what their views are and discuss your views with them. This way, if you both agree, you ward off naysaying, rejection, or opposition. If he does not agree, you can make preparations to deal with what comes. 

 • Understand the law of reciprocity. Your chances of getting the informal leader to cooperate with you are trying to accomplish are greater if you have a track record of responding to their requests and helping them with their needs and agenda. Reach out to them to see if they need support, and lend your time and resources as required. 

• Work to create an environment of teamwork in which you put aside your individual needs for the needs of the group. You are building a trusted and collaborative relationship.

• Lead by example. Empathize, motivate, and inspire. Do more, talk less: Build your reputation for being a doer, for making things happen in a way that earns the respect and trust of the informal leader and others. Do your research, know the facts and be prepared to patiently address questions or challenges.

• Always sell every success as team success. Unhesitatingly, give credit to and share credit with the informal leader and other team members. And never, never steal credit.

• A high degree of empathy is extremely important for success in influencing others. Good informal leaders gain trust and influence among their teammates, not by showing off, but by helping them out when things go wrong. You must maintain a careful balance between pushing people to stretch beyond their comfort zone while also listening carefully to their concerns and feedback.

• Be willing to take a risk for the good of the entire team. Avoid those behaviors that are perceived as coming out of self-interest. Sort ‘critical needs vs. preferences’.

• Encourage your team individual and collectively. Notice their strengths, praise their accomplishments, be aware of and highlight their contributions.• Be organizationally savvy and not be naïve. This is both a skill set and a mindset. Embrace and understand organizational/group dynamics.

Ways Informal Leaders can Become Detrimental is available in the Freebie Section


If you have questions or need any assistance, email us.  You can also call us @ 904-830-0737. You can also set up a free consultation

MORE From Ministry Development

If you allow Informal Leaders to raise troublesome questions, what can happen?
When an informal leader raises questions, she can get everyone thinking. Some questions are so difficult that people might question the viability of the organization. As the pastor/servant leader, you have to decide if those questions are going to be allowed of not. There are consequences for both choices. If you allow them, an answer needs to be provided that speaks to the order of God while remaining open. You have to:
• Be open to a challenge in the status quo
• Maintain your place of influence 
• Know how to manage conflict effectively

If you allow Informal Leaders to focus on one issue, make sure he is clear about the goal. 
The informal leader should volunteer to do what needs to be done, not only what they want to do. Spend time to provide clarity. Listen to what he thinks about the issue and what direction he wants to take. It may not have been the way you would have done it, and that is OK. In all cases:
• Communicate effectively
• Be both the teacher and the mentor
• Have conversations that empower 
• Be a master delegator

Can you allow Informal Leaders to work outside the formal leadership hierarchies and protocols? 
Yes, you can, however even though she can address a concern with anyone in leadership, she also needs to be ready to hear what they have to say. It is important that she does not confuse the ability to address a concern with the authority to implement change. Make sure all the formal leaders understand your feelings about listening, then you can show that you: 
• Can give place to the small picture thinker• Believe the best in the informal leader, first
• Have to make sure the concern/change falls within the vision, and stand firm
• Have Balanced Priorities
• Have ethics and integrity in all you do

If you allow Informal leader latitude, make sure he is not a figurehead for all people in the ministry. 
Ultimately, the pastor/servant leader acts on behalf of all people within an organization. When an informal leader tries to speak for everyone, he can offend some and play favorites with others to accomplish a goal. Though you have the responsibility for the ministry, make sure you:
• Show that though you are the head of the team, you are still a member of the team
• Celebrate the success gained from the informal leader’s input publicly
• Confront the concerns you have with the informal leader’s actions privately, for resolution
• Are completely transparent 
• Don’t waiver in your code of conduct
• Employ leadership and management practices that are godly 

There are some definite differences in how to handle problems that arise with informal leadership in the church/ministry. I have written a separate article that goes into more detail about handing this issue. 

Dealing with the informal leader in the church is available in the Freebie Section



If you have questions or need any assistance, email us.  You can also call us @ 904-830-0737. You can also set up a free consultation

MORE From Personal Development

Now is the time to look at how you can or if you should stand by your choice. 
 • You built a working relationship with the Informal Leader. You have some level of understanding about how he/she motivates others, the outcomes he/she produces, and what you experience when working with him/her.
• You have listened to the feedback from the other team members regarding the informal leader’s leadership style. You watched so see if the informal leader made adjustments when needed.
• You recognize when the informal leader is trying to build team unity, instill loyalty and create trust in team members.
• You don’t undermine what the informal leader is trying to accomplish unless you intend to do more.
What do you do when the informal leader has changed? When he/she: 
1. Is having a hard time inspiring your confidence.
2. Is finding they are almost unable to get your buy-in.
3. Is having difficulty convincing you they are in alignment with company goals.
4. Can't seem to get you to function at the high-performance level you used to.
5. Doesn't create a collaborative environment for you.
6. Is having difficulty creating a reason for you to work with him/her as opposed to working by yourself.
Here are some steps for you to take.
• Look at the big picture. Determine if you have changed or if the informal leader has changed. 
• It is natural that you would hear the conversation of your coworkers. Are they having the same feelings as you are having about the environment and the informal leader?
• Once you have determined that the shift is not in you. You take the next steps.
 Since you picked this person as your informal leader, do you owe it to him/her to ask if something has changed?
 Depending on their level of influence, they may have already started to talk about why they have a different viewpoint than they did originally.
 You can try to talk through whatever happened that changed the informal leader’s mind. If you can, that's great. If you cannot change his/her mind, then how you will work with them will most probably change.
 Depending on how formal leadership views the informal leader, the change in how you work with him/her could affect you, positively or negatively.
 At some point, you may feel like you need to go to the next level of formal leadership to share your concerns. My recommendation would be to talk to your informer leader before you do, as a courtesy.
 After you have voiced your concerns, both with the informal leader and with your next formal leaders, wait and see what happens next. Maybe you can do your job as you've always done it with little impact from the informal leader or maybe something else has to happen.

The outcome is not up to you. However, only you can change your motivation, loyalty or work ethic. The informal leader may be able to influence. Ultimately, you make and own your choices.

Ways Informal Leaders can Become Detrimental and Dealing with the informal leader in the church is available in the Freebie Section

If you have questions or need any assistance, email us. You can also call us @ 904-830-0737. You can also set up a free consultation.


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