Keith Fowler

What Makes a Great Network Leader?

What does it take to be a Network Leader, and how do the required skills differ to leading in a traditional organisational structure?

I’ll answer these questions by looking at the environments that a great Network Leader creates:

Directive vs Emergent

Many believe that leaders should be out on the front line, leading the way. The opposite is true of the great Network Leader.  Whilst organisational leaders may adopt a Directive or Emergent approach, a Network Leader knows that there are many paths to the goal, and they do not necessarily need to pick the path themselves.

They know that the leaders needed to tackle every possible challenge are already present within the network. And all the Network Leader need do, is to help bring them to light. When faced with any challenge, a Network Leader’s first action is to STOP AND THINK about how to make the best of the people in the network.

Position vs Role

While position relates to status, role is behaviour. A Network Leader will not lead from a position of authority. Rather they know that influence is the key to strong leadership, and so will help those within the network take on the leadership role when they are best suited to do so.

Small group in the know vs Transparency

A Network Leader knows that transparency is key to the global motivation of the network. Moving to transparency ensures that everyone in the network knows the VISION and understands how their contribution assists in reaching the goal.

Broadcast vs Engage

The Network Leader will not look to command-and-control with imperatives. But instead will seek conversation with network members and encourage them in turn to do the same. By discussing challenges and opportunities as a network, this empowers leaders to emerge when they have the confidence and support to help the network achieve the best result.

Top-Down vs Bottom Up

Top down leadership often gets a bad name from those who perceive they are at the bottom. The very nature of the structure can breed resentment.

If one were to draw a similar cartoon for Network Leadership, I imagine it would have all the birds facing inwards on a circular perch, like the Knights of the Round Table. And importantly, every bird would have a clean spot to perch on.
The great Network Leader knows how to create a network which supports itself, and encourages each individual member to work towards a shared goal.

Transactional vs Relational

Network Leaders encourage an environment where connections are forged on quality relationships and not simply a series of transactions.

Control vs Facilitative

Network Leaders are experts in facilitating the network to reach new heights. They help the network make positive decisions and steps towards the shared goal by asking the right questions, and letting the network provide the answers. The network moves forwards on its own esteem, rather than as a result of dictated actions.

The great Network Leader is willing to share their information, ideas and contacts. They foster a network which is agile in a changing environment. Demonstrating an open and transparent mind-set, the great Network Leader moves away from controlling outcomes and towards a belief in the natural leadership capability that exists in everyone.

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