Network LeadershipMay 9, 2012 Leave a comment
As I prepare to do a couple of trainings for leadership in multi-stakeholder networks in the New England region (focus being on the skills of facilitation, process design, and managing decision-making), I intend to frame our conversations with some exploration of the differences between traditional organizational leadership and what is required to steward networks towards positive impact. I begin with the presumption that network form and function are chosen strategically for the ability to accomplish something that could not be done at all or as well through other approaches. Whether trying to develop a food system to eliminate food insecurity or change an educational system to yield more equitable opportunities and outcomes, the attraction to a network approach is likely due to a desire for some combination of the following:
- small world reach
- relative efficiency
- more distributed capabilities
- rapid growth and diffusion
I have written elsewhere about elements of network thinking that can help to leverage these attributes of a network approach. Beyond those elements, there are certain practices that Beth Tener of New Directions Collaborative and I have identified as distinguishing a network leadership approach. The header for this is that network leadership moves away from overt efforts to control what is too vast, complex, and uncontrollable, and takes more of an approach of stewardship and attempting to create conditions that will allow collective intelligence, will, and movement to organically develop. The call is to step back and focus on:
- cultivating shared responsibility and mutual support;
- growing diverse leadership;
- encouraging trust to take root;
- ensuring there are multiple avenues for people to connect and share information;
- helping to develop the capacity to collectively listen and learn; and
- rewarding experiments.
Surely there is more, and I encourage readers to both share their thinking and experiences here and come back to the underlying spirit and view towards potential that support actions in the name of net impact.