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7 Examples of Informal Authority

Informal authority is power that isn't recognized by the systems of a society, organization or team. Here power is the ability to set strategy, allocate resources and make decisions. The following are illustrative examples of informal authority.

Charismatic Authority

Charismatic authority is power based on an individual's personal presence. This is based on the observation that people with fearsome social abilities such as wit can walk into a room and dominate a conversation without any formal authority to do so.

Expert Authority

Authority based on what you know. For example, an employee who ends up crafting an organization's information security strategy simply because they know more about security than anyone else in the organization.


Persuasion is the art of influencing with words. This can include appeals to logic and emotion that can change the direction of an organization.

Agents of Change

Change is often resisted. It is a common reality that those who resist a change that's more or less inevitable are sidelined even if they have significant formal authority. In this context, agents of change become influential by virtue of being a part of the change of the day. For example, an executive of the 1980s who resists the computerization of an organization who is sidelined whereby programmers with no formal authority end up being more influential over time.

Stakeholder Salience

Stakeholder salience is the degree to which stakeholders in an organization, department, team, strategy or project are aggressive in getting what they want. In other words, some people influence simply by virtue of being the most insistent, vocal and committed to battling for their agenda.

Relationship Building

Building relationships and then leveraging these relationships to influence. For example, a network of social connections that exercises significant control over a society, industry or organization.


Cronyism is the extension of unfair influence or advantages to social connections often in exchange for a future, current or past benefit. For example, a corporate executive who influences or controls certain policies of a nation based on a relationship with that nation's political elite. Cronyism is a destructive force that can cause a nation to go into decline.
Overview: Informal Authority
Power that isn't rooted in the official structure and systems of a society, organization or team.
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Informal Authority

This is the complete list of articles we have written about informal authority.
Charismatic Authority
Formal Authority
Information Security
Personal Presence
Popular Culture
Resistance To Change
Stakeholder Salience
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