Do you know who has influence? Where to go for information? Who knows whom?
Do you have a clear picture of informal relationships across your organization? Do you see the ties that extend beyond your organization, into other organizations, communities, and the broader society?
If so, you have what CCL calls “network perspective.”
People with network perspective understand that the official structure (the “org chart”) is only one part of “the way work gets done.”
They engage the informal, invisible structure supporting their organization.
They identify patterns of relationships, people in their personal network, and the broader organizational network that will foster strategic success — and those that will inhibit or undermine it.
Network-savvy leaders do these things:
- Improve their understanding of how the organization really works. Leaders with a network perspective look for informal structures and processes. They seek to understand how information flows through the complex web of relationships within and across departments and up and down organizational levels. This perspective reveals densely connected clusters, bridging ties and influential people who are often not formal leaders.
- Identify, develop and leverage hidden leaders. They seek the hidden leaders, change agents and key players in their organization. A network perspective allows leaders to recognize and support the people who are crucial to the work and the culture, but whose importance is underemphasized in formal systems and structures.
- Understand and strengthen their personal network. They examine their current network, the opportunities and constraints it presents, and make choices to strengthen it. They see how their position in the organizational network — and the position of their group or team — influences whether they achieve desired outcomes.
- Recognize network fluidity and variety. Multiple networks exist within organizations, including communication, leadership, energy, creativity and development networks. These networks are dynamic. Network-savvy leaders focus on the networks most relevant to the strategic challenges they face and how those networks change over time.
- Foster a leadership culture of collaboration and interdependence. The cultural beliefs and behaviors of an organization determine how members interact within the network.
Networks remain invisible to or misunderstood by many people in management and leadership roles. But network-savvy leaders gain extra insight and information — not a bad thing to have in any situation.
This article is adapted from the CCL white paper, Developing Network Perspective: Understanding the Basics of Social Networks and their Role in Leadership.