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Stand strong as an informal leader

Being an informal leader is a difficult balancing act to master. Many people are unsure how far they can go and what their mandate is. Here, Torsten Lauersen, instructor on the course ‘The informal leader’, will help you learn how to be a stronger leader.

Informal leadership is a difficult balancing act

It can be challenging to instil enthusiasm and motivation and get everyone on board when you're an informal leader with a change agenda. You need to navigate across organisational boundaries and have the support of employees with the same organisational status as yourself who may not see your project or task as particularly important.

Business and management consultant and teacher of the course ‘The Informal Leader’, Torsten Lauersen explains that when leading as an informal leader, it's easy to overlook which mechanisms are important to understand and what you need to master to succeed. This could be because you are ‘appointed to the role’, ‘you know you're right’, ‘you're the strongest professionally', 'you're busy' or something else entirely.

What matters a lot to you may matter very little to the employees you depend on because they are in a different reality. A key consideration is that the complexities of informal leadership typically extend beyond the scope of professional workplace responsibilities. It's about people, and they don't always do what you think they should do - or what you would have done yourself. That's why you need to understand other people's perspectives,’ emphasises teacher Torsten Lauersen, who has in-depth experience of the conditions for managers without formal personnel responsibility.

Many informal managers miss the stars on their shoulders that give them the natural authority that comes with having personnel responsibility and ultimately - the right to hire and fire. But here, Torsten Lauersen points out that it's actually a misconception that everything is solved by being a 'real' leader.

You have more influence than you think

Taking on informal leadership requires work:

  • You need to work with both managers and employees across departments because it's necessary for you to create the room to manoeuvre you need.
  • You need to recognise and support the routine functions and key goals of the organisation, alongside diligently progressing your individual tasks and projects.

It can be a really difficult balancing act, says teacher Torsten Lauersen. In particular, many people are uncertain about how far they can go and what their mandate is: Who can they call on? What resources can they use? What can they ask for?

However, this uncertainty is often rooted in misconceptions about reality. That's why Torsten Lauersen also emphasises that positive change often starts with you. You have much more influence than you realise and the conditions you work under often turn out to be better than you imagine. And that's the realisation you need to come to.

Recognition is best achieved through dialogue. Effective communication and relationship-building skills are imperative for your effectiveness in an informal leadership role. Your ability to form a positive connection with others is crucial, explains Torsten Lauersen. If you want to advance your agenda, you also need to be able to understand other people.

Relational skills may not be at everyone's fingertips, but that doesn't mean you can't learn them. By being proactive, having the courage to engage in dialogue and working with your own perceptions, you can develop your relationship skills. ‘The Informal Leader’ teacherTorsten Lauersen emphasises that it is certainly possible to equip yourself to lead upwards, establish your own leadership space and lead into relationships so that you are strong in your role as an informal leader and gain the organisational support you need.

Course: The informal leader

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