There are many truths to this statement and forces us to ponder "Why informal leaders are 'leaders? What can formal leaders learn from them?"
Informal leadership refers to the existence of a 'leader' without holding a formal position of authority. Not surprisingly, the concept of informal leadership is amazingly analogous to that of formal leadership regardless of the difference. When we think of a leader – we think of someone positive, commanding, resolute, hard working, a motivator and self directive. And yes, an informal leader does posses these skills. He or she has the attitude and the aptitude to lead a group in such a way that they tend to follow him subconsciously though may not explicitly. Is it possible for someone to influence so much without holding any formal authority?
The answer, again, is yes – he or she holds 'informal' authority. This may be due to their strong persuasive and motivating skills, an expertise in something considered exceptional, personal charm, or physical characteristics. Unlike a formal leader, the informal leader is not formally obliged to motivate his workforce towards the organizational goal - neither accountable for the outcome of a task nor has a job description that binds them to lead.
Sometimes there can be conflicts between the 'two' leaders. If the informal leader pursues a different direction or, at worst, has another vision for the organization!
So how do you deal with them? Terminate them? This will reduce the problems or confusion created by the informal leader who may be disrupting the management's efforts and objectives e.g. discouraging employees to comply with to a procedure which may lead to losses. However - dismissing an informal leader at a time when he is able to influence the workforce to an extent that they refuse or show unwillingness to cooperate - can be counterproductive, creating or increasing workers' disregard of the formal leader .
Turn the perceived troublemaker into an advantage! – Why not appoint the informal leader to a new position? Perhaps in training employees or establishing targets and communicating organizational objectives to the workforce. This could be a win-win situation! The informal leader will be "positioned at a position" where he can unleash his paramount potential, at the same time acquiesce with organizational objectives and be formally accountable for outcomes as well.
It is important to understand that leadership is a progressive process and 'leading' is a key function of managerial posts. Any manager who fails to convey the 'leadership' - losses his ability and the credibility to pursue organizational goals and an informal leader's 'influencing job' becomes much easier and a great deal effective when the formal leader fails to deliver the 'leadership.'