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New Ways of Developing Leadership in a Highly Connected World

This month’s Gifted Leaders e-Newsletter features a report from the Leadership Learning Community authored by Deborah Meehan and Claire Reinelt. The report outlines the importance of network leadership strategies as well as the mindset and principles required for leading in a highly complex and connected world.

Highlights from the Article

Network leadership strategies have as their goal the creation of collective leadership – the process of many people working together and aligning their efforts to achieve greater impact.

Why Do Network Leadership Strategies Deserve Our Attention?

Network strategies deserve our attention for a number of reasons. Here are three of the most compelling:

  • Network strategies connect a diversity of perspectives and ideas and provide supports for inventing and trying out new solutions. When people with different talents, knowledge, and interests connect with one another in a trusting environment, they create conditions that are conducive to creativity and innovation.

  • Network strategies are essential for shifting power dynamics and transforming inefficient and unsustainable systems. Coordinating and aligning efforts across sectors, silos, and geography can produce changes in policy and practice that accelerate reaching a tipping point.

  • Network strategies inspire and support leaders to take action and be accountable to others to achieve a desired result. When leaders take action in high alignment with what others are doing, their collective impact is greater.

Why Do We Need a New Leadership Mindset?

The stories of what is possible with network approaches are full of examples of leadership that is shared and ubiquitous, involving multiple people coming together to accomplish more. Yet for many people the word leader conjures up individual heroic figures who have made their mark on history. Our fondness for heroes often prevents us from seeing and understanding collective leadership. In the dominant culture, we are inclined to see leadership as the behavior of individuals exerting influence over others, often by virtue of their position or charisma.

Adaptive change requires an entirely different mindset, moving from working alone to working in highly connected ways. Learning to lead with a network mindset is not as simple as acquiring a new skill. Often our deeply held ideas about leadership collide with new ways of leading that are more distributed, relational, and interdependent. Those who lead with a network mindset practice openness and transparency, let go of controlling outcomes, and believe in the leadership potential of everyone.

What are the Core Principles of Leading with a Network Mindset?

Connecting and weaving. Relationships are the foundation of networks. This means building strong ties and cultivating authentic relationships among diverse groups of leaders that allow them to develop bonds of care and affection for one another, discover their shared passions and interests, and find creative ways to connect their assets and resources for community benefit. Network weaving is a leadership strategy to intentionally introduce and link people together to strengthen their bonds and build bridges among groups that are not already connected, thereby expanding the network’s reach, influence, and innovation. These connections also help people self-organize and experiment around common interests, forming many collaborative projects and initiatives.

“Doacracy” and self-organizing. Engaging large numbers of people in a network depends on the extent to which people feel authorized to take action on their ideas. Creating platforms that enable individuals and groups to self-organize is essential for organizing across networks. Strong networks have a shared sense of purpose and create many avenues for engagement and action.

Learning and risk taking. Leadership that embraces risk taking and openness and that commits to continuous learning is better able to adapt in an era of continual change and increasingly complex problems. Rapid-cycle prototyping solutions and the capacity to quickly learn what works and what does not are essential for getting results.

Read the article here.

The Gifted Perspective

While this Leadership Learning Community report was specifically written for people who run and fund leadership programs that develop and support leadership for social change, we believe that it addresses questions that are pertinent to leaders in every sector and organization:

  • Why do network strategies deserve our attention?

  • Why do we need a new leadership mindset?

  • What are the core principles of leading with a network mindset?

  • What leadership development strategies support a network mindset and skills?

At Gifted Leaders, we believe that a new leadership mindset is, indeed, a prerequisite for effective 21stcentury leadership. It’s time for us to escape the grip of 20th century leadership practices. Let us help you become adept at leading in a highly complex and connected world!

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