In 1985 the board of directors of the legendary Apple company decided that the corporation no longer needs the uncompromising and eccentric founder Steven Jobs. Although new heads of company John Sculley and Michael Spindler were strong and talented managers, Apple lost its leading state and slided down in 12 years.
Just the radical changes saved Apple from ultimately leaving the market. So Apple returned Steve Jobs and invited Tim Cook – a calm and balanced “tech guru with a smooth voice". This tandem took the business to unattainable heights for competitors and made Apple the most expensive company in history.
Why have strong leaders failed? And why have Jobs and Cook managed to get Apple off its knees? Read the new Yva.ai article.
Where are Diamonds Buried in Company?
Any business has a potential laid down in a team that executives and HRs managed to form. But the lack of employees’ feedback management leads the valuable resources to be used poorly. The most important asset of any company is the human capital, but it doesn’t work at 100 %.
In any formed team there’re specialists with valuable experience and deep understanding of the company's culture influencing colleagues.
Employees know they can refer to these people when difficult questions come up. And they won’t be refused, referring to extra busyness, but conversely be readily helped. These ‘connecting’ persons listen, support and tell how to settle conflicts.
Also team may include a kind of pioneer. Such employees make creative business initiatives, they see new directions and opportunities for scaling companies.
There’re simplifiers as well who don't only perform direct duties, but constantly optimize processes, reduce time and effort cost and minimize errors.
And there’s another type of employee who is a natural leader. They have experience and developed business intuition, so they see and feel the better ways to organize the team work.
But they can't impact if they hold a position high not enough or if the supervisor adheres no listening to employees.
So, who are all these people in the company? We call them informal leaders.
Informal leaders are distinguished by unique skills that are both needed for effective teamwork and long-term success.
The motivating factor for informal leaders is not only monetary reward, but other values like opportunities:
- to raise up wellbeing of their team,
- to develop the company,
- to manage a great creative challenge,
- to achieve impressive economic results etc.
Suggestions from informal leaders can be extremely useful. But frequently valuable ideas remain unrealized just because they come from an inconspicuous, non-empowered employee without authority.
At the same time, unlocking the potential of informal leaders gives the company new opportunities to grow performance and motivate other employees.
The long-term result for the company is the growth of financial indicators and the quality of customer service. And informal leaders can impact mightily and positively.
What are the types of informal leaders? How can one detect them? How can one determine what leadership style is missing in the company's management team?
Evolution of Leadership Theory
Formal and informal leadership in a company is not a new topic for business psychology and HR analytics. However, approaches to identifying leadership styles are evolving following the market transformation and sociocultural changes.
So, in the first half of the 20th century, the German and American psychologist Kurt Levin proposed a behavioral approach to leadership based on distinguishing1:
- and laissez-faire style of management.
Critics of this concept noted that K. Levin analyzed formal leaders rather than informal leaders. The point is informal leaders can influence employees without a supervisor's right. As for formal leaders, they just have this right.
In the second half of the 20th century, the American psychologist and leadership theorist Fred Fiedler developed a situational approach to leadership2. This model shows the relationship between employee's productivity and motivation.
The situational leadership model takes into account:
- structure of the task,
- level of motivation,
- job responsibilities,
- communication between supervisor and subordinate.
Accordingly, leadership styles are distinguished between the manager’s focus on the relationship with the employee or on the final result.
American psychologists from Scientific Methods, Inc. Robert Blake and Jane Mouton developed this concept into a management grid3. This matrix reflects 5 types of leadership, showing different combinations of caring for people and caring for the implementation of business tasks:
- ‘country club’ style,
- team style,
- impoverished style,
- produce or perish style,
- middle-of-the-road style.
Leaders in the post-pandemic era
The latest research of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and People Analytics Yva.ai team research based on generalized analysis of data from American and European companies, have shown there are 5 main leadership styles distinguished on behavioral models and skills.
- Dominant – determined, self-confident, assertive.
- Innovator – risk-taking, curious, creative.
- Integrator – responsive, altruistic, empathic.
- Protector – organized, disciplined, responsible.
- Expert – competent, purposeful, professional.
It is noteworthy that not only psychology is in favor of this approach but human biochemistry is too.
Over the past 20 years, dozens of studies have demonstrated the connection of certain hormones and neurotransmitters with typical patterns of behavior of a particular person.
For example, serotonin4 is associated with aggression and impulsivity. Dopamine activation5 is associated with seeking new while oxytocin6 is associated with attachment, trust, and fear reduction.
So each type of leadership is associated with its own hormone or neurotransmitter. Integrators are the ‘oxytocin’ people. Innovators are ‘serotonin’ ones and Dominants are the ‘testosterone’ type, etc.
As long as endocrine signaling is a biological constant, each person has all five types of leadership in differing proportions. But one or maybe two styles prevail and manifest themselves in certain skills, inclinations, and behaviors.
If we go back to Apple's breakthrough in 1998 what happened when Steve Jobs returned to the company and Tim Cook came in?
The answer is they combined their leadership styles to lead the company succeed. Expressed Innovator-Dominant Jobs and mixed Integrator-Protector Cook managed to organize the effective work of the team using the full range of leadership skills and qualities.
Is it Possible to Change and Develop the Leadership Style?
Absolutely! You can develop leadership both at the individual level and at the level of the whole company.
Regarding the employee, nature has endowed a human with neuroplasticity. It’s our ability to form new neural connections between existing neurons. This amazing property allows the employee to evolve leadership skills that he or she needs.
Regarding the company, the target of modern leadership classification is to create an optimal organizational structure in the company.
If you know that in the current model Dominants mainly make all solutions you can assume your team needs an Integrator or Protector. Someone who takes over the establishment of processes and helps the employees comfort interaction.
These people are likely to be already in the company's contour. And if you empower them, the company's results are going to grow in 6 months after changing.
Besides, informal leaders found among your employees can lead a new branch, a new direction, a subsidiary project, etc.
So how do you determine who the hidden informal leader is in the company and what skills he has? How do you know which leadership style prevails in a company and which
HRs face these questions if they are tasked with optimizing and transforming the management team, offering new candidates for senior positions.
At the same time, in large enterprises HR can’t know each employee personally to make up his psychological portrait and give objective characteristics.
To solve the problem we created Yva.ai system – an AI-driven real-time employee experience and performance platform. This People Analytics tool is based on a self-learning neural network. Yva.ai analyzes data from weekly smart surveys and data of employee communication in digital corporate services: email, instant messengers, corporate portal, etc.
It is a smart and sensitive assistant capable of predicting burnout of valuable employees, measuring stress, and detecting HiPo – the employees with high potential and informal leading impact, helping your business and your team grow.
Learn more about Yva.ai from first-hand experience. Watch the webinar with CEO Yva.ai Inc. David Yang, Ph.D. for TedX about 5 Leadership Styles to Reach Long-Term Success. Watch now!
- Patterns of aggressive behavior in experimentally created social climates // Lewin K., Lippitt R., White R.K. Journal of Social Psychology. 1938.
- Improving Leadership Effectiveness: The Leader Match Concept // Fiedler F. E., Chemers M. M. and Mahar L. New York: John Wiley and Sons. 1976.
- The Managerial Grid: The Key to Leadership Excellence // Blake R., Mouton J. Houston: Gulf Publishing Co. 1964.
- «The Role of Serotonin in Aggression and Impulsiveness» // Fatih Hilmi Çetin, Yasemin Taş Torun and Esra Güney. IntechOpen. 2017.
- «Dopamine D4 receptor (D4DR) exon III polymorphism associated with human personality trait of Novelty Seeking» // Richard P Ebstein. Nature Genetics. 1996.
- «Oxytocin and Human Social Behavior» // Anne Campbell. PubMed. 2010.