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Who leads a network?

Effective leaders monitor resources, communications, responsibilities, feedback and output. This doesn’t have to be done with a heavy hand: rather, leaders know the breaking points and when intervention is critical. Leaders surface for various needs and functions within the network.

Network leadership is the ability to direct information, wisdom, opportunity, support, talent, and resources from one part of the network to another part of the network in order to achieve results. Some network leaders may only have the string to just one point in the network – for example to open and close access to a donor or a Hollywood actor. Others can effectively direct traffic of hundreds of resource interactions. Any network leader or match maker knows how to borrow a little excess here to meet a little need there from the setting up a "great catch" that is under dated to orchestrating volunteers around an election. Just as a chief operation officer or CEO moves staffing resources of a
welcome box
"firm", network leaders work to optimize resource movement within the network.

Network leader characteristics

Network leader responsibilities

Building network leadership: action steps

  • Map your network leadership. Remember some leaders may not hold formal power; rather, they may lead due to experience, knowledge, etc.
  • Identify leader responsibilities. Are they clear and obvious? Remember that not all of these features need to be defined, but know which ones do.
  • Draft job descriptions for various leadership positions. Although leaders must be flexible, it will help everyone - including them - to have a basic sense of what's expected. Components might include basic tasks, relationship to other positions, evaluation and reporting requirements, necessary skills, etc.
  • Ensure leaders have access to information, resources and support necessary to do their job well. For example, if the network exists online, do leaders have access to website statistics?
  • Ensure leaders have the ability to make decisions necessary to do their job well.
  • Ensure leaders demonstrate necessary activities and behaviors to the network.
  • Set necessary logistics: reimbursement, length of term, accountability, etc.

Evaluating network leadership? What to explore and ask

  • Who are the network leaders? How did they come to this position? Is their leadership formal or implicit?
  • What culture keeps them in charge?
  • What values, skills, behavior and experiences do leaders have? How does the network regularly transmit and enforce network values? How do those network values dictate the type of leadership that emerges?
  • What functions do leaders play?
  • Do leaders receive enough information about the network? How? What do they do with this information?
  • What other roles need to be in place for leaders to get their job done?
  • Do leaders have the power and respect necessary to lead effectively? What’s essential, according to your network’s culture?
  • How do leaders get feedback on their performance? Are leaders accountable and transparent?
  • How does the culture reward success that is driven by honest, transparent, respectful and consistent contributions? How would the network catch and punish successful leaders that are dishonest, sneaky, obtuse and disrespectful?
  • What are the operating principals, skills, behavior and experiences needed to thrive as a leader in your network?
  • Evaluation tools

Examples of networks with strong leadership

Photo credit: Crowd photo: adlaw:

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