Encouraging Informal Leadership to Establish Broader Influence within Your Organization

Tiffany Brown | May 4, 2020

Organizations that use an informal emotional approach are significantly more likely to experience lasting change, according to Strategy + Business. Informal leaders have a strong influence within organizations and often do not carry a formal position of authority. Enabling these influencers to be advocates often positively impacts organizations, creating momentum for them moving forward. Developing connections and encouraging these informal leaders to guide colleagues will support the organization’s vision and better enable initiatives to get accomplished. 

Following these steps will help companies establish and strengthen a broader influence within their organization. 

Find Influencers

Observe who drives conversations and has built trust and respect among peers. If making these determinations is unclear from observation alone, use snowball sampling to identify who the influencers are within your organization. Develop a survey positioning your employees as respondents to let them tell you directly who they regard as influential. Informal leaders determined by peers are more effective key change agents for implementing and sustaining change.

Identify Answers to Relevant Questions
  • Have we provided a clear vision for our informal leaders to champion?
  • Do we have a central place for our employees to respond to our survey?
  • Do we have a plan to engage our informal leaders?
Select Appropriate Tools

Within the 7Summits Digital Workplace Bolt, solicit feedback and responses from employees, letting them crowdsource answers in a private or collaborative space. Communities built on Salesforce give you the ability to facilitate virtual discussions using features like Chatter.

Engage Informal Leaders

After identifying who these informal leaders are within your organization, start an open dialog with them. The individuals are key to implementing sustainable change and shifting the culture within the company to its desired place. Though they may not hold a formal authoritative title, you will need their buy-in so these informal leaders do not become detractors. Explain why their role is crucial and ask for their help in championing change. Ensure these individuals have the space to navigate your organization as usual and proactively provide resources and talking points to support as needed. Remember, these informal leaders are influential because of the trust and respect they have developed among their peers. It’s important that they retain their voice and are not simply mimicking company talking points straight from resources. Utilizing informal leaders will exponentially shift the organization’s culture positively and have a lasting impact. 

Identify Answers to Relevant Questions
  • Do our informal leaders feel a personal connection to our vision?
  • Do we have a coaching plan for our informal leaders?
  • Are resources and talking points prepared for our informal leaders?
Select Appropriate Tools

Within a digital workspace, leaders can segment community members into Groups and post updates and documents solely for their respective teams. This ensures that everyone in your organization has access to the information, tools and individuals most pertinent to their success.

Develop Future Leaders

Acting as a catalyst, informal leaders are more influential among peers in today’s workforce. As these influencers carry weight in your organization, it’s important to gather and act on their feedback. If informal leaders feel that their feedback is essentially shaping your business, they’ll feel more ownership around their contributions. Continuously develop informal leaders by keeping an open dialog with other members of your organization who may want to grow into these types of roles. Set KPIs for them to achieve to help move into a formal leadership position. Developing informal leaders will facilitate ongoing cultural changes that benefit your company, while simultaneously driving engagement and retention throughout your organization. 

Identify Answers to Relevant Questions:
  • Do we have a central place for our informal leaders to give feedback?
  • Do we have the time and resources to act on our informal leader’s feedback?
  • Have we set individual KPIs for each of our informal leaders?
Select Appropriate Tools:

Apps like 7Summits Ideas help you crowdsource, listen and respond to your people. Unleash your employees to influence the next evolution of your digital workplace, enabling their voices to be heard while enabling others to vote and interact with the submissions they like best.

Tiffany Brown is a Strategist at 7Summits leading digital transformation and user experience strategy through the application of design thinking and change management principles. She analyzes complex business problems, establishes innovative future-state visions, and builds actionable plans that ensure adoption and speed time-to-value.

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