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Title: Leading Without Authority: A Thematic Analysis of Qualities of Informal Leaders
Authors: Ingole, Neha
Keywords: School of Management and Labour Studies
Vijayakumar P.
Informal Leaders - Qualities
Center for Human Resource Management and Labour Relations
Issue Date: 2018
Abstract: “There is nothing so practical as a good theory”, this quote of Lewin (1951, p.169) intends to unite the theory that is available to the practice to understand the human behavior and help in understanding the talk and the behavior of the leaders. “Up until now, leadership scholars and practitioners have mainly focused on the person heading the team or organization, and her or his relationship with followers. This approach emphasizes a vertical influencerelated process (i.e. top-down) in which subordinates are controlled, influenced and managed by a single individual leader. Over many decades, this was the prevalent paradigm in the leadership field (Pearce et al., 2003, p. 1). An emergent approach suggests that leadership is an activity that can be shared or distributed among members of a group or organization (Pearce et al, p. 2). This opens up new lines of thinking about informal leadership (Fletcher et al, 2003) in organizations where people are empowered to make decisions concerning their own tasks at work and implement them (Conger et al., 1988).” This research comprises of the thematic analysis of the interviews with the practitioners of the informal leadership and have gone out of their comfort zone. The analysis of the qualitative data was motivated by the desire to understand what makes an individual go beyond the circle of comfort and push themselves to learn and develop. Today the economy is moving away from manufacturing and toward a knowledge economy. Hence the organization structures too are moving away from the hierarchy to a flatter organization. There is a strong need for development of employees who can function in such a culture. Though initially, informal leadership was recognized as one form of leadership, little has been talked about it in the literature. By this study, I aimed to come up with the qualities that would help the organization as well as the employees to develop the ability to influence without authority. This research would also help organizations understand the factors behind the will of employees to go beyond the formal authority and lead. The six themes that have come up from the thematic analysis of the experience of the leaders who went through the transition of formal to informal leadership is that personal development is the biggest factor for people to move out of the circle of comfort and move from formal to informal leadership. The qualities that thematic analysis shows that helped the informal leaders succeed in the informal authority is networking, communication, flexibility, courage and passion. Developing these characteristics will help the organization as well as the employees adjust in the climate of informal authority
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