Formal vs. informal leadership – what’s better?

You have probably wondered for a few times in your life why do people always nominate you as a leader in some group.

Naturally, you don’t feel like a leader. But every time you were to do a school project with your fellow students, every time you volunteered for a certain cause, you have been casually and informally nominated a leader. And how did you realize it?

  • People have turned to you as though you have all the information
  • The nominated leader of your group wasn’t such approachable person
  • Everyone asked for your advice and waited for you to make a final decision

Before explaining the reasons for it and responsibilities that informal leadership bears, let us first explain what formal leadership actually is.

Formal leaders are?

Usually persons who got the decision in making authority. He/she was given the power to decide for the group. When you look at the example or managers in a company, they are formal leaders whilst a person working within a group that was giving advices to the people and helping them make certain decisions is an informal leader.

  • They push the team in reaching the goal
  • And push them to follow the rules of the company
  • Usually is a strong character, but his role was given to him by the higher authority

Formal leaders can be pushy and not so team-oriented. They are mostly goal-oriented for the pressure that might come from the higher instance. That is why the team has the need to choose a person closer to them, who would help them in achieving the daily goals and keep the team-spirit up.

Informal leadership

Is something a chosen informal leader does without thinking too much. He has a management part in his business nature, but also a natural personal touch which makes him closer to the individuals in the group. They might push people to meet certain goals, but usually, informal leaders follow their own agenda, and tend to keep the team spirit high. They are really good in finding the alternative ways in getting the different things done whilst the formal leader is concentrated on the end result. They are given the responsibility, but a true formal leader sees it as an honor, not the pressure.

  • The true reason behind the informal leader’s relationship with co-workers lies in a shared self-interest and quality co-working atmosphere they long for. Therefore, they include members of the team in the decision making process, unlike the formal leader that brings the decision, and the rest of the team doesn’t get to be asked what, why and how.
  • Team members usually seek advice from the informal leader since they look at him as a sort of a counselor and a teacher. They don’t see him as an actually boss whom they ask approval from.

Formal vs. informal leadership

The conclusion is that one cannot exclude one of the given figures. We need both informal and a formal leader in order to get the work done and reach the given goal.

The two type of leaders should work together, compromise and find the best solution for the group. They should cooperate in articulating the vision and persuade others to pursue that vision.

If you are a young entrepreneur that already has a team and you need mentoring and/or investment, feel free to contact Mads Emil Fast Dahlerup and Casper Ravn-Sørensen. They would be more than happy to help you in persuading your entrepreneurial goals and visions.