Formal Training for the Informal Leader

Gabel, S. (2014). Expanding the scope of leadership training in medicine. Academic medicine89, 848-852.


Stewart Gabel (2014) in Expanding the Scope of Leadership Training in Medicine defines leadership in both formal and informal terms. Formal leadership is defined by a specific position, role, or title that one holds such as director, executive, president, or chair, while informal leadership is based on ones ability to affect change and attitudes in a non-title given role. For example, an informal leader would be a coordinator in higher education who does not have very many leadership responsibilities because of their title, but implements change through their personality and other interactions with both internal and external populations.

Qualities and characteristics found in formal leaders are a mastering of technical, financial, or regulatory formalities, positional based power, expert knowledge or education, and social and material awards and rewards (Gabel, 2014). While characteristics typically found in an informal leader are, powers derived from personality, relates to many co workers, have clinical competence, often times does not have formal leadership role (Gabel, 2014).

Gabel (2014) makes it known that not all informal leaders aspire to become a formal leaders. Often times an informal leader does not want the responsibility of making tough choices where they are the sole reciprocator of the outcomes, positive or negative. Extra responsibility may result in more working hours causing a change in lifestyles and may place greater time restrains on one’s personal life.

In the vast majority of organizations, informal leadership is the most common type of leader. It is for this reason that Gabel (2014) makes a point that there should be formal training for individuals in this type of role. The author emphasises the importance of transformational leadership training for informal leaders.

Transformational leadership focuses on idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration (Gabel, 2014). With basic training in these areas, an individual often times has higher ethical standards, strong communication skills, and are often able to inspire others to hold similar values (Gabel, 2014). It is important for informal leaders to have these skills as they are often times the greatest contact for other employees and outside populations. Even if at the moment, an informal leader does not want to take on a formal leadership roles early in their career, having the skills and competencies provided by transformational training, could help the informal leader later on in their career if they choose take on a formal leadership role.


The organization of the article was sequential having a very clear beginning, middle and end. It beginning with the descriptions of both formal and informal leaders and the roles they play within an organizations. Gabel (2014) almost immediately lays out his argument for formalized training for informal leaders and then builds his theoretical argument throughout the work. After stating basic definitions and his argument, Gabel (2014) breaks down qualities commonly found in both types of leaders, the different type of leadership and power, types of leadership styles, how to train informal individuals and then finished with his concluding remarks.

Although the piece is helpful with distinguishing between types of leaders found in a work environment, it contains little more than broad ideas. The paper lacks empirical data, direct examples, and does not provide a clear way of implementing formalized training programs. The work seems to lack rigor and substance to support its claims. The author also frequently relies on statements such as “informal leaders potentially are able…to motivate others” (Gabel, 2014, p. 850, ) due to their personality, however he never seems to address which traits helps one motivate others.

The ideas presented seem reasonable and logical making it easy to follow and understand. Essentially, the piece lays a foundation on to which to build research and outcomes. This article by Gable (2014) seems to act as a springboard to inspire individuals to begin thinking about their work environments and the roles each individual plays. It also begins to get the reader to think about how one would go about creating a program that would benefit each type of leader. Gable’s (2014) findings simply point out that we are all charged with being leaders at one point in our professional lives and we should know how to handle the leadership role with the assistance of formalized tools when the moment arises.

Personal Use

I would have to agree with the author that there should be a formal training in transitional leadership skills annually for employees. This article inspired me to look at the potential formalized leadership training could have on the College of Medicine – Phoenix (COM-P) staff. When establishing a growth plan for COM-P, I now may look at employee’s thoughts on professional training programs. This article also helped me realize that there are no current formalized training programs at the COM-P campus and no one to my knowledge has any plans of implementing one. This article helps me think about the types of leaders present on the COM-P campus and how to begin to establish and operate a professional program that would benefit employees on campus.

I believe that by possibly establishing a program available to informal leaders on the COM-P campus, that staff would have greater access to resources that could help them succeed in their current role, but possibly provide extra skills and access to other roles they may be interested in. I also believe that by providing a training, staff member may also experience a greater feeling of acceptance and overall happiness in their work environments due to being able to expand one’s skills set.

All in all, I believe that this article was great at sparking a lot of new ideas in regards to leadership and professional development, which are topics that I can look at when collecting data at the COM-P campus. This article also gave me a new branch in types of leadership which I can examine in my study as I begin to further develop my action research project.

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