Formal and Informal Leaders

December 09 2018
By: Terry L. Mathis

When we think of organizational leaders we usually focus on the formal leaders. At the corporate level, that is the CEO, president, directors, etc. At the site level, it is the manager, production superintendent, maintenance manager, etc. However, at every level there may also be informal leaders who are critically important in any improvement effort. Often, informal leaders are ideal change agents because they are inside the culture while formal leaders are outside. Cultures are said to resist change, yet cultures are changeable and often changing. The difference is the culture resists outside forces but embraces internal forces. A person on the inside can be a valuable asset when trying to improve a culture.

Formal and Informal Leaders

This does not mean you should choose informal leaders over formal leaders. It means you should include both groups in change efforts. Using both types of leaders gives you a two-pronged approach to organizational and cultural change that can be highly effective. When assessing the current status of a site or organizational culture, look for your most effective change agents to help you with the desired improvement and don't automatically eliminate informal leaders.

Terry L. Mathis

Terry Mathis, Founder and retired CEO of ProAct Safety, has served as a consultant and advisor for top organizations the world over. A respected strategist and thought leader, Terry has authored five books, numerous articles, videos and blogs, and is known for his dynamic and engaging presentations. EHS Today has named him one of the '50 People Who Most Influenced EHS' four consecutive times. Business leaders and safety professionals seek Terry's practical insight and unique ability to introduce new perspectives that lead to real change.

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