Generating ideas, connections, and action

A Sneak Peek: What are Leadership Programs Saying about Network Leadership?

As you may know from following our blogs, we are part of a cool research project focused on learning about how to support effective network leadership.  We have great partners; the Interaction Institute for Social Change, June Holley from Network Weaver and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, who is funding our work.  Over the past few months, we have sent a survey to over 450 leadership development and network practitioners to help us learn about challenges, progress, and resources that are being used to build the capacity of:  1.) networks to be more conscious about how to develop leadership in the network; and 2.) leadership programs to better equip their participants to effectively utilize network strategies and tools.  Early findings are supporting the relevance of both of these objectives.

The leadership development practitioners felt strongly about the importance of helping their participants to develop network competency.

The networks we surveyed believe that leadership plays a critical role in the success of a network.

We are excited about this project for two reasons:

  1. There are hundreds of formal leadership development programs that focus on developing or supporting the leadership of thousands of nonprofit leaders every year.  Nonprofits are beginning to explore ways in which network strategies could increase innovation, reach and influence – and yet, the leadership needed to build networks and move them to action requires new behaviors and skills that work well in organizations.  Leadership programs need resources that can help them retool in order to prepare today’s leadership to take full advantage of network strategies.

    60% of leadership program survey respondents who are NOT developing network competency said it was because they do not have access to curriculum resources or experiential modules that they could incorporate into their program
  2. Networks could benefit from lessons from leadership development that could be integrated to support emerging leaders within the network.  For example, there are a number of processes found in traditional leadership development like action learning, systems analysis, and self-mastery, that could be useful in developing network leadership but would need to be “translated” into that context.  As you can see from the chart below, those involved in networks are interested in a more explicit approach to developing leadership.

An interesting convergence:  Both leadership development and network practitioners agreed that one of the obstacles to developing network leadership in either context is that most of the leadership models are all designed around behaviors that are geared towards an organizational context.  We need to increase our understanding of what network leadership requires and how to practice and develop network leadership capacity.

What’s next:  We have been curating resources that survey respondents have helped to identify.  Visit the Network Leadership page for a fun introduction to useful resources and add your own suggestions.  Next we will be conducting action research with about 10 networks and leadership development programs who will be coached in the use of resources to help test their value. We will share findings from the project throughout the project which will culminate early in 2014 through focus group conversations and webinars.