If you have not already seen it, our friends at the Leadership Learning Community have published a rich new resource entitled “Leadership and Networks: New Ways of Developing Leadership in a Highly Connected World.” Some of us at IISC contributed to this publication, directly and indirectly, and overall it seems to do a nice job of bringing together otherwise disparate stories about the power of networks in guiding leadership development and movements for change. Here you will find brief overviews of instructive cases such as the Barr Fellows Network, Lawrence CommunityWorks, the RE-AMP Network, and KaBOOM!, along with a list of additional resources and readings. I also appreciate how it explicitly builds the case for considering network approaches, including their ability to:
- Strengthen social capital
- Catalyze community engagement
- Change hearts and minds
- Stimulate creativity and innovation
- Bring efforts to scale
- Transform systems
- Foster greater equity
Compelling, and certainly not guaranteed or easy. Heroic, individualistic, “go it alone” approaches are still very much alive. Doing it differently can mean greater uncertainty, risk-taking, boundary-crossing . . . and the rewards just might go beyond what any or all of these cases have indicated to date. Anthropologist and systems thinker Gregory Bateson has suggested that the threats of system collapse which we now face stem from our illusions of separateness and linearity. If he is right, then network approaches to leadership and change stand to help move us from profound schism and the brink of collapse to a more coherent relationship with living systems, and a collective evolutionary bounce. Net work provides us with an opportunity to look at how life actually happens, to align our thinking, being, and doing accordingly, to bring ourselves into right relationship with one another and the planet.
What do you think? What potential do you see in net work? What are the most powerful stories/experiences you’ve heard/had with network approaches to change?