Each team has a leader appointed by the management. Someone with knowledge, experience and someone who can deal well with people. The so-called formal leader. Someone who understands how thedepartment works, has an eye for everyone, is seen and loved by everyone.

This is the case in the ideal world. Unfortunately, the ideal world is not always achievable. Many teams are led by a formal leader, but that does not mean that this is a good leader. Especially when the leader is inexperienced or out of touch with the team/department, the quality of his leadership can leave much to be desired.

When members of the team feel, they can’t go to the formal leader, they will look for someone they can turn to. If this happens often, this is where the informal leader emerges. This can be one person, but sometimes also several people in a team or even outside the team.


As I mentioned in the previous section “Boundaries”, tension can arise between the team leader and members of the team. The emergence of informal leaders has its basis here. The formal leader is passed by the team members. They look for someone who will help them.

This is dangerous for the group’s dynamics. It can lead to unrest, scheming and an undercurrent in the team. This undercurrent is not visible to the formal leader.

The leader loses the overview, does not know what is going on in the group and the leader becomes less relevant. After all, he has no idea what’s going on.

If this develops further, a real hierarchy can arise in the undercurrent. So-called deep dymocracy. What are the informal relationships in the team?

This is not only unsafe for the members but costs an unnecessary amount of energy. Especially when the team comes under pressure, you will notice that all kinds of currents start to run differently.

It is important, as a team, to study this together and solve it as soon as possible.


The question of how to change this cannot be answered until we have figured out why an informal leader is emerging in the first place. Is that because:

– the formal leader is absent

– the formal leader does not take responsibility

– the formal leader afterwards/ does not respond

– the team does not feel support from the formal leader

– the team does not trust the formal leader

– the formal leader does not guard his borders

– communication in the team is not running

– there is a lot of informal contact

-the informal leader has his own agenda


You should answer all these questions before you can continue. After all, the answers to these questions are directly the answer to the question: where does an informal leader exist at all?

Also remember that the team’s goodwill towards the formal leaderhas been damaged. Perhaps the team is willing to think along and help the formal leader. But that’s not infinite.

Solving this problem is not that easy. Certainly, from the team itself it is very difficult to take steps in this.

Perhaps help can be offered from the higher management layer. By means of coaching / training of the formal leader and the team or an intervention.


It can help to be open. To discuss openly and honestly   with the members of the team what is expected of each other.

Perhaps it is necessary to bring in an independent party to guide this process.

After all, the team and the leader must grow again in each other’s trust.  And that takes time.


In the end, this can end well. The proportions are normalized again, and the lines are clear. Especially when the leader acts clearly and forcefully, trust can be restored.


The emergence of informal leaders is dangerous for the team, and it takes a lot of energy. Try to change this as soon as possible.