Analyzing whether networking is critical to effective leadership depends on how that leadership is defined. If the key for any leader to be effective “is for them to be themselves, but with more skill”, then a network might seem useless. This might suggest leadership is innate, not developed; but leadership can be grown through the development of skills. According to Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence (EI) plays a decisive role in a leader’s effectiveness. Goleman points out that forty percent of a leader’s EI is made up of relating to other people, represented by empathy and social skill. These components directly affect networking by determining our awareness of other people’s emotions and ability to manage relationships.
If a prospective leader wishes to develop the necessary skills to improve leadership effectiveness, building a network is necessary. Emotional intelligence is not the only correlating conduit; though EI can be learned and developed, individuals will eventually meet the limitations of their own social skills. It’s necessary at this point to branch outside of one’s own professional domains in order to gain perspective, referrals, and coaching. For an effective leader, these three elements can help leaders “to see the big picture better, generate innovative solutions by integrating the expertise of those with unique backgrounds, position their efforts well, bypass bureaucratic gridlock and obtain necessary resources and support”. Effective networking, therefore, stretches any individual’s capabilities beyond what they can do on their own.
One way to break networking down is into the four attributes of status, strength, multiplexity, and asymmetry. Effective networking then comprises a healthy state of these attributes through honest investment in and acknowledgement of new and existing relationships. One way to do this is to engage in virtuous behaviors that include those that are benevolent and respectful to others (p. 492). This could be granting access to one’s resources, making referrals, and providing insight; it is focused on giving rather than asking for or taking. Another way is to engage in shared activities that bring people together through their unique passions. These bring out the more “genuine, stable attributes of character”.
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