The Favorites Game: Informal Leadership

By: Kristin Clarke

Zia Khan of the Rockefeller Foundation on his favorite a-ha moment and more.

The "informal organization"—the network of values, beliefs, and influences that operates beneath the formal structure of your association—can drive breakthrough performance.

So says Zia Khan, vice president of strategy/evaluation at the Rockefeller Foundation and coauthor of the new book Leading Outside the Lines. Khan urges leaders to use the informal organization to bolster "formal organization" activities by leveraging employees' pride in both your organization and their work toward your mission. "Do not just assume that happens automatically," says Khan.

Khan's favorite insight from the book is "that the informal and formal organization need to be integrated for really high performance. One without the other isn't enough." Other favorites are below:

Favorite movie about leadership: The Godfather. Ignoring the sordid context, it's a unique portrayal of leaders using values, networks, and sources of pride to get what they want.

Favorite self-motivator: The Little Engine That Could, because it's just not that complicated to stay optimistic.

Favorite business a-ha moment: When I finally realized that you can say most of what's important in one page.

Favorite hobby: Biking around Brooklyn.

Favorite career error: I thought I would prove myself by going it alone in a presentation to a client, and it bombed. I learned that in most situations all of us are smarter than one of us.

Favorite compliment: When someone tells me they think I listened well.

Favorite way to celebrate: I usually spend some time by myself to enjoy the good feeling. Then I might tell family and some close friends, but I avoid celebrations where the focus might be on me. … I grew up in Canada, after all.

Contributed by Kristin Clarke, a writer and researcher for ASAE. Email: [email protected]