We live in a networked world. People are becoming more interdependent. Issues and problems ripple through webs of connections causing volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. To address these problems, we need a better understanding of the networks that form naturally within organizations as well as the networks that are formed strategically within and between organizations and communities.

Today’s organizational and societal challenges are too big to be addressed by heroic leaders alone. A more contemporary understanding of leadership as a shared process is needed.

Collective leadership occurs when mobilized masses achieve exponential results through their connections. If leaders, organizations, partnerships, cross-sector alliances, NGOs, community-based organizations, and grassroots movements are going to leverage the potential they have for impact, then they must understand the power of informal networks. Networks are the fundamental way in which we can see and measure how collectives are engaging in leadership.

We’ve seen a significant increase in demand for incorporating a network perspective into our leadership solutions for individual leaders, executive teams, and larger groups (such as departments, organizations, and communities).

Many researchers and practitioners are working hard to understand how collectives — groups of people, teams, organizations, communities — can enhance their network perspective to build, manage, and leverage their network connections. But researchers often work in isolation. Their geographically dispersed, university-based labs act as barriers, reducing outward communication with other researchers and practitioners.

We believe that a greater sharing of research ideas and challenges is key to advancing a common understanding of solutions that are useful in practice. That’s why we worked with the University of Cincinnati to host the 2014 Thought Forum on Network Leadership and Leadership Networks, a 2-day event with 30 leading scholars working at the intersection of collective leadership and network science.

The conference was part of our ongoing commitment to advancing the understanding of leadership for the benefit of society worldwide and delivering both proven and cutting-edge solutions to our clients. Scholars traveled from around the globe to Greensboro, North Carolina, bringing diverse perspectives and knowledge from a variety of contexts and settings including corporate, government, military, intelligence, large and small community-based organizations, and social movements.

To learn more about what we found, download the full white paper below. 


Additional Contributing Author:

Donna Chrobot-Mason, PhD, is an associate professor at the University of Cincinnati and also serves as the director for the university’s Center for Organizational Leadership. She is an organizational psychologist with expertise in leadership across differences and organizational initiatives designed to promote diversity and inclusion. Donna earned her PhD in Applied Psychology from the University of Georgia. She coauthored the book Boundary Spanning Leadership: Six Practices for Solving Problems, Driving Innovation, and Transforming Organizations in 2011. Donna also serves as an adjunct scholar and leadership consultant with CCL.

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