Informal vs Formal Leaders: Great News from Leandro Herrero

One of the big challenges to those of us who seek to “change the terms” of internal communication and organisational change is the persistent belief in hierarchical approaches like cascading and the reliance on senior managers to force messages down through the chain of command.

While many communicators have long suspected that other means, like focusing on informal, influence-driven networks offer considerably more potential, the intuitive notion that positional power is both most effective and efficient in driving communication has remained seductive and entrenched.

Hence, my delight in seeing this post from Leandro Herrero, whose book, “Homo Imitans”, represents the most comprehensive approach to a networked approach to driving and sustaining change that I have seen.

In this post, Leandro demonstrates compares the top five hierarchical leaders in a financial services organisation with the top five influencers he identified through a social mapping exercise.

Said Leandro in his “Daily Thoughts” yesterday:

“The results are revealing. By step one, the Leadership Team (of this organisation of 1200 people) had a reach of 21 people whilst the Viral Change TM Champions  had 104. Step 2 (connections of the immediate connections) Leadership Team 100, approximately, and Champions 3 times more, around 300 people. Step 3, 250 for the Leadership team and 450 for the Champions. By step 3, the five person Leadership Team was able to reach (tap into) 27% of the workforce, whilst the five top Viral Change TM Champions reached 49%, almost half of the workforce.”

While Leandro’s post doesn’t portend the “end of hierarchy,” it certainly makes the case for surfacing the informal influence network and activating its power in appropriate ways, supplementing the hierarchical leadership and complementing or replacing more formal approaches to internal communication and change management.  In that, it is a welcome breakthrough.  Thank you, Leandro Herrero.

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