How to Find and Engage Authentic Informal Leaders

Authentic informal leaders (AILs) are not people in your organization who have been endowed with formal authority by title or by memo. Rather, they possess and exhibit certain leadership strengths such as the ability to do something important well and showing others how to do it (exemplars), or they demonstrate the skill of connecting people across the organization (networkers). Some AILs influence behavior by being the first to understand the value of a new trend (early adopters) or by instinctively associating peers’ positive feelings with day-to-day activities (pride builders). These strengths can make AILs powerful allies in any transformation effort.

In our work, we have seen AIL networks help bring about changes that lead to real business outcomes such as creating a more positive customer experience on service calls, improving quality during product development, and inspiring teams to identify practical ways to drive efficiency on the manufacturing floor. But how can you identify, engage, and motivate a group of leaders whose resumes, 360 reviews, and LinkedIn profiles won’t necessarily highlight their capabilities and status?

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