Leadership is not about leaders becoming historic individual figure like it’s sometimes displayed in the book. On the contrary, the responsibility to lead lies with every single member of an organisation. The success of informal leadership styles depends on people to stand up and take a lead. Only when organisations are able to sustain environments that foster inclusive leadership is it possible to stay organisationally flexible and adapt to changing market environments.
The 17th European Congress of Work and Organizational Psychology in Oslo emphasized the importance of this challenge by putting the focus of this year’s edition on "Respectful and effective leadership - managing people and organizations in turbulent times."
So what should informal leadership look like? In his talk Daan van Knippenberg argued that value-based leadership gives the right answer. Here, leadership's role is to create approaches to connect organisational goals to employees’ personal values. Thereby, personal principles are employed to unite individuals on an organisational level and help to achieve organisational goals collectively. Giving an individual answer to the question “Why do we do what we do?” becomes a little more simple this way. Daan showed first quantitative evidence that the key to building this connection between employee and organisation is facilitating proactivity:
Research labels the connection between employee and organisation as so-called psychological contracts. When people start working at organisations they enter imaginary contracts that represent a reciprocal exchange of perceptions, beliefs, and informal obligations between employee and organisation. Through positive emotional exchanges loyalty is being established and performance improved. However, if the contract is breached it often leads to higher perceived levels of stress, anger and anxiety. To prevent breaches it is crucial not to break promises and limit secrecy in order to avoid negative effects on the personal job satisfaction.
Presenting her research, Jacqueline Coyle-Shapiro, added the facet of ideological currency as way to strengthen psychological contracts. Ideological currency helps to establish meaning to the job. It is created by credible commitments that pursue a valued cause or principle that is not limited to self-interest. People’s motivation at work is never solely based on monetary rewards. A common good or an organizational mission often greatly expands the individual drive of employees. Organisations committed to a common cause promote the organisational well being and increase personal job satisfaction.
Creating organisational goals and a mission every employee can commit to is not a task to be taken lightly. Defining it can be tough. However as the latest research suggests it is an investment worth making to help create a strong bond between employee and organisation. Everyone is craving for meaning in their everyday life. Creating opportunities to be proactive and pursue valued causes not related to self-interest are a great way to increase job satisfaction and avoid stress.