Leadership is not only something a leader has, or something she does, but something that happens in the relationship of leaders and followers. If there is no relationship, there can be no leadership. And if there are insufficient organizational networks – a web of multiple relationships within a social group – the capacity for leadership within that organization remains limited.
Thus, developing leadership capabilities within an organization in turn means honing, and leveraging networks within that organization. In many organizational structures, networks are strongly determined by and reinforced along formal set-ups, e.g. divisional or unit structures (the will known silos which are so often lamented. But there are ample ways for individuals and organization developers to build additional webs of relationships; be it based on personal initiative, on common interests or as a byproduct of project work or cross-functional tasks.
As part of our Leadership Development Kit, we have developed a network mapping canvas including a five-step approach for network mapping and planning. This tool can be used for individual reflection by an aspiring leader; by consultants or business partners serving an organization or unit; or within a group (or, in action learning speak, a “set”) of leaders collaboratively working to develop their leadership skills.
Last not least: strong and diversified networks, including a bunch of trusted personal relationships, are also a great source to obtain leadership feedback – a key ingredient to actually learn leadership based on practical experience.