Informal leaders are trustworthy and generous while engaging across titles, departments and responsibilities to develop allies everywhere, Art Petty writes. “The X factor for individuals who lead successfully between the lines and across boundaries is their unique ability to see the opportunities or problems others are blind to or, at least, ignore,” Petty writes.



In the 2004 movie “National Treasure” with Nicolas Cage and a bevy of other stars, Cage’s character discovers a set of multi-colored spectacles (eyeglasses) essential to decoding a hidden message on the back of the Declaration of Independence. As the wearer tunes the different color lenses, the message suddenly appears, offering clues to a hidden treasure.

While we are unlikely to come across a similar set of spectacles that help us uncover the hidden treasure in our organizations, it turns out the treasure is hiding in plain sight. If you squint a little and look off of the organization chart, you’ll see a small group of individuals leading without the benefit of title or formal authority. They’re busy driving collaboration, cross-silo problem-solving, innovation and strategy execution.

In this article, I share five habits of these influential, informal leaders. They merit studying.

The 5 great habits of those who lead and succeed without the title
Habit No. 1: Trust building

Less a tactic and more a way-of-life, individuals lacking the authority conferred by title and budget trade in one currency: trust. In studying these informal leaders, I’ve observed a tendency for them to give their trust first based on the visible evidence and use the direct experience to confirm or refute this early assessment. Effectively, they practice “swift trust.”