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Formal Leadership: Definition & Explanation

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley

Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.

Formal leadership refers to the authority someone has within an organization due to their position in that organization. Explore the definition of formal leadership and take a look at the explanation of its key concepts. Updated: 09/14/2021

What Is Formal Leadership?

Formal leadership is a person exercising authority conferred upon him by the organization pursuant to the individual's position in the organization. An example of formal leadership is the ability of a company president to exert control over employees, which is based upon his status as president of the company.

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  • 0:00 What Is Formal Leadership?
  • 0:22 Key Concepts
  • 2:24 Lesson Summary
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Key Concepts

Formal leadership has four key concepts. Let's explore each of these concepts in detail:

Formal leaders are appointed: Formal power is based upon a person's position in the organization. Formal leadership is very useful in establishing the legitimacy of a member's authority in the organization because it is expressly sanctioned by the organization. For example, few, if any, employees of a corporation question the president's authority because he was duly appointed to the position by the corporation's board of directors. On the other hand, there may be other types of leaders in an organization whose power and authority are not based upon the formal sanction of the organization. For example, if you are appointed by your team members to be the team leader, you don't have formal leadership because your authority is not sanctioned by the organization.

Rules, procedures, and customs define power and limit behavior: So what does this mean. Well, a formal leader's scope of power is defined by the organization's formal rules, procedures, and institutionalized customs. Their behavior is also constrained by these rules, procedures, and customs. For example, the president of a company may be the most powerful employee of an organization, but he is still bound and constrained by the company's anti-discrimination policy.

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