Regardless of whether you are a leader, you need to network. My experience is there are large individual differences when it comes to networking. Some people network easily and find making new contacts enjoyable. Others just are not comfortable approaching others and engaging in the social interaction that builds networks.
Marc Anderson (Iowa State University) and Peter Sun (University of Waikato) suggested another factor might affect the likelihood of a person networking. In a recent Leadership Quarterly article they suggested that a leader’s style might influence the degree to which subordinates network. If a leader has a well-developed network (more common to highly transformational leaders), then followers need not develop their personal networks as much. They could “free-ride on their transformational leaders’ social network” (p. 792). On the other hand, the followers of leaders who are seen as less transformational (less inspirational, motivational, and with smaller networks) would be more likely to develop their own networks.
In a study of leaders (from an executive education courses at a university in New Zealand) and their followers, this is what Anderson and Sun found. All followers networked more when encouraged to do so by their leaders. But the less transformational a leader was perceived, the more likely the followers would “engage in greater networking behavior.” The more transformational the leader, the less followers networked. Anderson and Sun suggested this reduced desire to network among followers may be one disadvantage of highly transformational leaders. It could also be disadvantageous to the individual followers and to the development of social capital in the organization.
1. I would expect that leaders who are highly transformational (considerate, motivating, influential, mentally stimulating) would develop healthy networks and these networks could benefit their followers. Given great contacts through my supervisor, why would I need to work hard to develop contacts on my own? Because you may not always be able to count on your leader or her network being there. Use your leader’s network but work hard to build your own.
2. Leaders at all levels should encourage their followers to build their social networks. Networks of relationships help individuals and can impact organizational effectiveness. Referring to these networks as social capital makes sense because networks represent potential resources. While building social networks, do not overlook social media networking. Getting to know others in cyberspace can be personally and professionally rewarding.
3. The best leaders grow and develop their followers. This should include leaders using their networks to make opportunities and resources available from their followers.
4. Regardless of your position, make an inventory of your social networks. Networks can figure prominently in your professional success.
Anderson, M. H., & Sun, P. Y. T. (2015). The downside of transformational leadership when encouraging followers to network. The Leadership Quarterly, 26, 790-801.
Image, “Social Network” by Z. Athanasios. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Social_Network.png
Used with permission under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
© John Ballard, PhD, 2015. All rights reserved.
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