Keith Fowler

How to embody the Network Leadership Mindset

What does it take at a practical level to become a great network leader? And what tools are available to help facilitate this?

Well the first step is to make sure that you are comfortable with the principles of Network Leadership.  If you haven’t read my recent posts about what makes a great network leaderand how to harness the power of diversity, then I’d suggest you get the background there.

If you have a deep seated belief that true leadership must be in the form of a clear ‘Hero’ figure that everybody follows, then this mindset will need to change.

“You will need to bring about change by immersing yourself in Network Mindset Principles”

Even if you are open to the idea, you may still find yourself having to exhibit unfamiliar behaviours such as transparency and letting go of control.

By definition, Network leadership is the opposite of ‘going it alone’.  Network leaders have to be comfortable working in highly connected ways and they need to be able to create Networks that are able to adapt as the environment changes.

 It’s no surprise then that Networks are built on Relationships.

ABC – Always Be Connecting

As the Network Leader it is your job to intentionally introduce and link people, building bridges among those groups not yet connected.

One tool you might use to help you with this is LinkedIn.  With more than 20 million users in the UK, and 433 million users worldwide, LinkedIn is a powerful tool to connect and expand your networks.

By helping others grow their networks you increase your value to both individuals and the networks as a whole.  This in turn improves your ability to cultivate networks that can respond when needed.  Practically, you always need to be on the look out to connect people who you feel will add value to each other.

Allow Networks to pull their own strings

The best networks are Self-Organising, and as the network leader, you need to actively encourage people to self-organise.

If someone steps forward to take on a task then they are showing a willingness to become accountable to the network.  They are more likely to be motivated to complete the task to a high standard than someone following ‘orders’ in a traditional leadership structure.

This could in effect manifest itself as a Job Swap for particular tasks, with network members trading tasks with each other for the good of the network as a whole.  But first, they need to get to know each other.

One potential tool that allows individuals to learn more about one another in an environment that promotes listening, sharing and storytelling; is Yammer.

Physical proximity isn’t always possible in the work place and so Yammer provides an online forum for connecting ideas and experiences to share a sense of purpose and provide a catalyst for action.

Learn to Echo the purpose of your Networks

Networks are most effective when they share a common goal and sense of purpose.

Network Leaders should live and breathe this purpose and goal, as it is what ultimately will keep the Network together and focussed.

Keep yourself up to date with what’s happening both in and outside the networks that might have an impact on your goal and purpose.  Share this knowledge with network members.

Encourage Learning by Risk-Taking

One massive potential advantage of Network Leadership is the ability of highly connected networks to react to changes in circumstances extremely quickly.

It’s important that individuals are given the opportunity to take risks, and that they are empowered to respond quickly to feedback.  This constant level of pushing the boundaries and adapting to find the most effective solutions is what makes the Network Leadership Model so powerful.

Ask questions of your network, let them tell (or show) you what’s possible.

Provide the Platform for Collaboration

If leadership is defined as taking action, the skills for success cannot reside in one person but instead reside in the capacity of a group.  Face to face opportunities may limit most networks so finding ways to collaborate online is essential.

Bring all of your network members into one workspace and encourage them to contribute by starting discussions and sharing information.

One potential platform for this is Huddle, a tool specifically designed as a collaborative workspace unlocking anywhere, anytime working.

Believe in the model

Lastly, as a Network Leader you need to believe in the leadership potential of everyone and lead with openness and transparency at all times. Ultimately, the more you can embody the Network Leadership mind-set, the better your network will perform.

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