3 Ways Talent Development Technology Can Cultivate Informal Leaders


Leadership does not require a fancy title or formal credentials. Anybody in your organization can (and should) lead. And with the help of modern talent development technology, organizations can create a culture of informal leadership that drives results, writes Kelli Davidson, senior solution consultant, Cornerstone OnDemand.

The traditional organizational hierarchy is increasingly eroding, giving way to agile work cultures where collaboration and knowledge sharing reign supreme. Organizations, in their quest to be and stay competitive, are moving to flatter structures and encouraging the use of lateral, cross-functional teams to deliver on key business objectives.

The truth is leadership doesn’t require a fancy title or formal credentials. Anybody in your organization can (and should) lead. But they need to have the trust, tools, and support needed to do so – and this does come from the top down.

The New Realities of Employee Empowerment

When HR and talent professionals empower everybody in the organization – regardless of title, role, or position – to flex their leadership skills to drive results and make an impact, everybody wins. Employees are more motivated and fulfilled by their work, managers and department heads can be more effective, and the business is more agile and better equipped to respond to changing market dynamics.

And from an HR perspective, creating an empowered workforce is key to attracting, engaging, and retaining top talent. After all, who does not want to work for a company that trusts and respects its employees?

In this new world of work, a new approach to leadership development and empowerment is needed. Instead of relying exclusively on traditional leadership practices and philosophies – which are based on a top-down authority model – progressive organizations are creating a culture of informal leadership where leadership is shared and, as a result, its power multiplied.

Using Technology to Cultivate Informal Leadership

Many organizations are already sitting on a leadership gold mine. The challenge lies in unearthing and nurturing the leadership potential and capabilities their people already possess. But with the help of talent development technology, organizations can identify, energize, and empower employees to lead – even when they are not the boss.

Here are three ways a talent development platform can help your people lead more effectively, with or without a title:

1. Enable social collaboration and recognition

By giving every employee a platform and voice, technology can help shift the culture of leadership within your organization, empowering employees to take ownership and influence others.

A talent management platform that allows employees to create and collaborate across social groups and workspaces, for example, is a great way to identify and encourage informal leaders. Through their interactions and knowledge sharing in these communities, informal leaders and subject matter experts naturally tend to rise to the top.

According to Susan Mazza, the founder/author of the highly acclaimed blog RandomActsofLeadership.com, [P1] the key to making leadership achievable for everyone is showing people what leadership looks like in action. So, show them what leadership looks like! Recognizing employees for their leadership not only motivates and encourages the receiver of that reinforcement, but it inspires others across the organization to also step up as leaders.

With social feedback and peer-to-peer recognition capabilities, a talent management platform can be a powerful vehicle for making leadership seem less complex and more accessible.

Learn More: Where to Look for Your Next Great Company LeaderOpens a new window

2. Align employee goals with business strategy

Since informal leaders must lead with influence rather than authority, Mazza says that informal leaders must be strategic in everything they do to lead effectively – and this means beginning with the end in mind.

To inspire and encourage others to follow your lead – without any ability to exercise authority – they need to know the “why.” And a talent development platform can encourage this type of big picture thinking and help employees be more strategic in their work by keeping employee goals aligned, visible, and top of mind.

By facilitating collaborative goal-setting processes – where employees and managers work together to set goals and identify development opportunities – a talent management system can help increase accountability and engagement around employee performance goals.

Linking individual and organizational goals ensures employees have clear expectations and line of sight into the value of their work. And when business priorities change, a talent management system can also quickly adapt organizational and individual goal requirements.

With organizational clarity, goal alignment, and a clear path to success, informal leadership can blossom.

3. Facilitate self-driven, continuous learning and development

A great way to motivate and empower employees to exhibit leadership in the workplace is to first let them take ownership of their learning and development. Technology that facilitates informal, self-driven learning allows employees to drive their growth and development while also staying aligned to business goals. With a browser-based bookmarklet, for example, employees can easily find, tag, and share any external, informal learning content, from podcasts to blogs to online videos.

By connecting learning activities to performance objectives, employees can own their goals and take charge of achieving them. At Vulcan, the umbrella company for a host of signature entities owned by the late Paul Allen, “Leveraging talent development technology to tie learning to performance and bring skills development into the goal-setting process has been instrumental in creating a high-performance culture,” revealsOpens a new window the company’s CHRO, Tim Mulligan.

With continuous employee coaching and feedback mechanisms that facilitate regular check-ins and 360-degree feedback, talent development technology can also shift performance management from an annual evaluation process to an ongoing development opportunity. More robust systems can even help the employee identify skill gaps, recommend training courses, and identify mentors to the employee so they can develop their leadership skills and start putting them into practice.

Learn More: What Is Enterprise Crowdsourcing Technology and How Are HR Leaders Using It?Opens a new window

Facilitating Informal Leadership Highlights Potential Leaders in Your Organization

The path to becoming a leader is not one-size-fits-all, nor is it always the clearest. But technology is the great enabler and multiplier when it comes to informal leadership. Talent development technology can help people elevate their leadership and grow their influence. This in turn creates a powerful ripple effect throughout the organization. After all, great leaders empower others to be great leaders.

And, Mazza adds, “When you lead with authority, you have power over others. When you lead with influence, you empower others. And when you empower others, you exponentiate your power.”

By giving employees the tools and technology they need to lead with impact – whether they are leading a team, department, project, or even simply a meeting – you can realize the full leadership potential that exists within your workforce to maximize engagement, productivity, and performance.

How do you facilitate informal leadership in your organization? Tell us on LinkedInOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , or FacebookOpens a new window .