Category Archives: Informal Leadership

The Position-Less Leader

follow-leader“Leadership is something you earn, something you’re chosen for. You can’t come in yelling. ‘I’m your leader!’ If it happens, it’s because the other guys respect you.” —Ben Roethlisberger

We know that the idea that leadership is bestowed upon a few, select individuals is an antiquated notion. It is not a formal position of authority that determines leadership, but the ability to influence others. Every one of us has the potential to be a leader. So, what gives the position-less leader the power to influence others?


People follow those they trust. A position does not award you the trust required to be a leader. When we gain the trust of others we are able to influence them because they know that we will look out for their best interest. When we become a trusted advisor, we become a position-less leader.


People follow those who they see as competent. A title does not prove competence. When we work closely with others they start to have confidence in our skills and knowledge; they see the value of our experience. When we become the go-to person to answer questions and solve problems, we become a position-less leader.


People follow those with whom they develop good, two-way communication. Authority does not necessarily make you a good communicator. When we develop relationships where we share information; listen because we care; and empathize with others, we gain the ability to influence. With this influence, we become a position-less leader.

It’s About Respect

The bottom-line is: it’s all about respect. Leadership is the ability to influence others; it takes trust, proven competence, and two-way communication. These characteristics are not earned by acquiring a position of authority. They are developed through focusing our energy on becoming a positive force in the lives of others. When we earn their respect, we expand our influence, and become position-less leaders.


© 2016 Elizabeth Stincelli


Liz Stincelli is passionate about recognizing and inspiring the leader in each of us. She is the Founder of Stincelli Advisors where she focuses on helping organizations change attitudes, change communication dynamics, improve collaboration and problem-solving, engage employees, and strengthen organizational culture. Liz holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership.

Learn more about Liz by visiting her website, and connect with her on Twitter @infinitestin, Google+, and LinkedIn. You can contact her by email at


Do You Recognize the Everyday Leaders in Your Organization?

file0001845637670“The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born-that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.” —Warren Bennis

By Elizabeth Stincelli, DM


Who Are They?

Leadership is not about a position; it can come from anyone. It is taking place all around us on a daily basis. Being a true leader goes beyond a title or position; it grows from the respect and credibility that is earned when working with others. This respect and credibility allows everyday leaders to influence and guide those around them without possessing formal authority or power. So, how are these everyday leaders able to impact your organization?


Research has shown that followers often have a greater influence over the process of leadership than those who hold formal leadership positions. The everyday leader gains support based on relationships without holding a formal position of authority. And, relationships are the key to holding teams together. Successful leadership is dependent on more than just the relationships and behaviors of a single, formal leader; every individual within an organization can make a meaningful contribution to leadership. By developing and maintaining trusting relationships, these leaders are able to collaborate, share knowledge, influence group thinking, and impact team effectiveness.


Everyday leaders are often seen as friendly, open, trustworthy, experienced, and always willing to help. These leaders are out on the floor, they are in touch with what is going on, they have a network of resources, and often have access to information that formal leaders miss. They have a vested interest in the success of their department, team, and organization. All of these characteristics factor into the respect that everyday leaders earn from colleagues. This respect is a great source of power for everyday leaders. These leaders influence the culture of the organization through their willingness to get involved, share knowledge and expertise, and support their team.


Everyone needs to know that their contributions are adding value. Everyday leaders play the role of coach and supporter with an emphasis on helping others succeed. They create a sense of community where everyone knows their work is meaningful and appreciated. They encourage trust, collaboration, and a safe place to communicate. It is through their support of others that everyday leaders gain respect, trust, and influence.


Everyday leaders understand the effectiveness and importance of shared responsibility. Shared responsibility and cooperation improve the opportunity for the organization to benefit from the individual strengths of employees. When employees are given the opportunity to participate in planning and decision-making, it sends the message that they are trusted, recognized, and valued. Cooperation helps employees build on the momentum of others while working together to achieve common goals. Everyday leaders emphasize cooperation because they know what it’s like to be left on the sidelines by those in a position of authority and how difficult it is to work effectively under those conditions.

Why Do They Matter?

In every organization, there is an unacknowledged system through which work is accomplished. This system will not be found on any organizational chart. This system is guided by everyday leaders who are relied upon heavily yet are often unappreciated. These everyday leaders use influence, the building of relationships, knowledge, and expertise to advocate for the organization and enhance the contributions of employees.

Everyday leaders gain support through respect and relationship building without holding a position of authority. But, why do they matter? In a nutshell, the reason everyday leaders matter is influence. Those who can influence are those who get results. This has a big impact, whether for good or bad, on your organization. Everyday leaders have the potential to influence employees to either pursue the agenda of the organization, or their own agenda; the priorities of the organization, or conflicting priorities; the timelines of the organization, or those of their own design.

Power and influence is no longer held only by those in a position of authority, it is shared throughout the organization by employees at every level. Everyday leadership is powerful, more powerful than most formal leaders recognize. And, if you don’t recognize it, you lose the opportunity to harness its power for the good of the whole.

The culture of the organization can either hinder or promote everyday leadership. A culture that empowers everyday leaders to make a positive contribution to the organization promotes encouragement, opportunity, and the sharing of ideas and knowledge. Sharing in the leadership responsibility improves the quality of decision-making and strengthens the commitment to decisions made. Everyday leadership gives employees a voice and management an advocate.

Formal leaders should serve as facilitators; they should encourage empowerment and participation. Everyday leaders relieve formal leaders of the responsibility to control everything. This allows them to focus their energies on the important tasks of planning and coordination.

There is a limit to a formal leader’s ability to exercise influence, wield authority, and exert power. Leadership should be seen as dynamic and fluid rather than fixed. It is an emergent property where a group of individuals bring their expertise together in pursuit of a shared goal. And, it is in this environment where everyday leaders make their impact. Learn to recognize the everyday leaders in your organization; harness their power for the good of all.


© 2015 Elizabeth Stincelli


Liz Stincelli is passionate about recognizing and inspiring the leader in each of us. She is the CEO of Stincelli Advisors where she focuses on helping organizations engage employees and improve organizational culture. Liz holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership.

Learn more about Liz by visiting her website, and connect with her on Twitter @infinitestin, Google+, and LinkedIn. You can contact her by email at



Barriers to Informal Leadership


Barriers to Informal Leadership

Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position. —Brian Tracy

 By Elizabeth Stincelli, DM


The Role of Informal Leadership

When we look at the ability of a team to perform well we can see that it is directly related to the ability of team members to share knowledge, experience, and skills in the coordination and completion of tasks. In a team environment, an informal leader has the opportunity to be effective at influencing the morale, energy level, work-ethic, attitude, confidence, and sense of purpose of others.

Barriers to Informal Leadership

Informal leadership is taking place throughout your organization. The question is, is it to the benefit or the hindrance of organizational objectives? There are many barriers that can affect the ability of your employees make a positive contribution to the leadership of your organization. Some barriers are operational, others are cultural. Here are a few that are often overlooked.

                       Lack of understanding by management

Management can say they are in support of this new, shared form of leadership and go through the motions of adopting new departmental structures and implementing new procedures. But, are they truly embracing these concepts and assimilating them into the culture of the organization, or are they merely giving the illusion of encouragement for informal leadership? It’s great to talk about an empowering, engaging picture of leadership. But what is really happening out on the front lines? What happens when departments get restructured but nothing changes but titles? Employees become frustrated and lose trust in and respect for management. When processes change but no support is provided in the form of necessary information, resources, or feedback employees feel exposed and vulnerable. Soon, everything reverts to operations as usual. Nothing has changed. Management thinks they have addressed employee’s desire to play a more participative role in the leadership of the organization. Employees realize management is completely out of touch with how much they have to contribute if given the opportunity.

We have to start by educating upper management that informal leaders are impacting their organizations with or without their support. They need to understand the benefits that informal leaders offer their organization. What does embracing this type of leadership and empowerment look like? What does it feel like? Helping them to understand how the innovative ability of the organization is dependent on a collaborative culture that brings together critical skills and knowledge from throughout the organization and respects employees and their abilities to make meaningful contributions. Then upper management needs to listen and really “hear” why employees want the opportunity to be more involved in the organization. Employees are often educated, highly skilled individuals who expect to be provided with opportunities to participate in organizational leadership and decision-making. They want to feel engaged, to have a level of control over their own work, and know they are adding value.


Many smaller organizations started in someone’s basement and have operated with only one or two individuals at the helm for the past 20 years. In these situations we run into a couple of problems. First, these individuals usually never wanted to be leaders or managers. They wanted to be architects, landscapers, accountants, or contractors. The leadership responsibilities just came along with owning their own business. Second, they built their organizations from the ground up. No one knows the business like they do and they want it done their way. They find it difficult to give up power and control.

In order for informal leadership to operate with the support of management we have to address egos and get upper management to buy into the value of informal leadership to their organizations and the benefits to them personally. When upper management is struggling to relinquish the command and control they are comfortable with they need to redirect their energies to identifying and providing the information and resources that the employees on the floor need in order to use their personal leadership skills towards the attainment of the goals of the organization. Showing these managers that they still play a key role in this new leadership process makes the integration into the new culture a little less painful.

                        Structures and controls

Developing a balance between the systems and procedures that are necessary so that the right hand knows what the left hand is doing and allowing employees throughout the organization to participate in decision-making and leadership is a difficult task. The larger the organization, the more difficult the balancing act. The issue of developing an organizational structure and setting parameters and controls for employees to operate within might be the biggest operational barrier to encouraging informal leadership. To successfully implement the structural and operational changes required to support engaging employees in the leadership process takes immense commitment and coordination from management.

Every organization can take baby steps by implementing avenues for input and feedback whether they choose to adopt a culture that embraces and utilizes informal leadership to their benefit or not. These avenues can provide employees with an opportunity to offer both input into operational decisions that affect their work and feedback on past decisions. But, for this to be effective there must be follow-through on the part of management so that employees know that their input is taken under consideration and valued.


Over time, employees build up a powerful knowledge base gained from their experience. This knowledge base allows them to identify signs that a problem may be about to occur before formal systems are able to recognize it. This allows employees on the front lines to respond quickly if they are empowered to make decisions and act on behalf of the organization. Employees also develop relationships within the organization that are based on respect that allow them to influence the morale, energy level, work-ethic, attitude, confidence, and sense of purpose of those they work with.

Informal leadership is playing a role in your organization in one way or another. It can be a great resource that can increase innovation, adaptability, response time, and morale, the list goes on and on. It requires a true shift in the culture of the organization which often difficult for upper management to embrace. But, if you’re going to do it, commit to it completely and dedicate the time and resources necessary to succeed.