25 June, 2024 0 comment

Become an Informal Leader

Today, to be an effective leader in organizations, it is crucial to also be an influencer. The formal power of a position is not enough to convince others, and often you won’t have a hierarchical position to exert that influence. So how can you become an informal leader that others will want to listen to? How can you motivate your team and colleagues to support your initiatives and adopt your ideas? And how can you become a point of reference that everyone turns to for guidance and feedback?


image: Freepik

Having influence in the workplace has a clear and measurable value, as Dorie Clark, author of “Entrepreneurial You”, points out. Having influence allows you to accomplish more and better, to develop important projects, thus increasing your chances of making a difference, being noticed, promoted and even receiving salary increases. With the world turned upside down and increasing complexity, being able to influence is more important than ever, whether due to the growing pressure for immediate results or the need, for example, to implement solutions based on DEI, ESG. However, Nick Morgan, author of “Power Cues”, points out that it is increasingly difficult to influence others, due to constant distractions, information overload and a growing mistrust in the relationship between people and institutions.


In order to influence, it is essential to create good relationships with those around you. You don’t need to be the most charismatic person in the room, but you do need to build a good relationship of trust with your colleagues, which makes it easier for them to listen to your ideas. Working on interpersonal connections and letting others get to know you can prevent them from attributing negative intentions to your actions. This foundation of trust can be the difference between being listened to or ignored. The best way to get teams and colleagues to support you and your agenda is to make them feel listened to by involving them as part of the solution.

At a time when technology often distances us from each other, giving colleagues your genuine and undivided attention during one-to-one conversations will certainly show respect and interest in their opinions. Many of us are constantly worried with our own to-do lists, our own “chatterbox minds”, forgetting that taking the time to really listen to others can make a big difference. People appreciate feeling heard and respected and this can predispose colleagues to support their ideas and initiatives. According to BetterUp, 86% of respondents to the “Emtrain Workplace Culture Report 2020” study consider empathy to be a fundamental skill, while only 42% argue that colleagues show empathy in their workplace.



In addition to good intentions, it is essential to develop your skills, particularly your communication. The confidence you convey through your posture and tone of voice is crucial, and the way you address others makes a difference. For example, standing with your shoulders back and adopting an open posture can make you appear more confident and approachable. Also, a slightly lower tone of voice can convey power and authority, counteracting the effects of nervousness. These are small examples of adjustments in nonverbal communication that can help reinforce your presence and influence others’ perception of you.

Being recognized as an expert in your field is another effective way to increase your influence. Attending conferences, taking specialist courses and taking on leadership roles in professional organizations, associations, are all visible ways of demonstrating your knowledge and commitment to your field and to a cause. Sharing this knowledge through blogs or company newsletters can also reinforce your position as an authority on the subject, someone who is interested and likes to share it with others.

When you want to promote an idea or initiative, you should do so strategically. Creating a “relational map” of decision-makers can help you identify who you need to influence and who can help you influence others. Thinking strategically about how and when to approach different colleagues is essential to gaining support. Simulating scenarios can also help you anticipate resistance and prepare appropriate responses. You can increase your influence on a specific issue by framing it authentically as a benefit to the people you want on your side. Consider the needs, perspectives and behavioral profile of each stakeholder. Do your homework to find out what each person values and what will capture their attention the most. For each person, make sure you’re answering the question: “What can I benefit from this?”. Talking about how an idea will benefit the organization as a whole and using inclusive language can help gain wider support.


image: Collidu


Adopting these practices can help you position yourself as an informal leader in your workplace, becoming a valuable resource for your colleagues and the organization as a whole. By developing trust by building strong interpersonal relationships, actively listening, adjusting your non-verbal communication, developing expertise and being strategic, you’ll be on the right track to increasing your influence and achieving your professional goals, and above all, helping others to grow personally and professionally too.


Article by Sérgio Almeida, in partnership with the daily newspaper Vida Económica.