Creating and Maintaining Networks among Leaders: An Exploratory Case Study of Two Leadership Training Programs

Article excerpt

This research explores the link and importance of creating and maintaining networks with statewide and county-wide leadership training programs. The first section provides a review of literature on networking and its importance for leadership inside and outside organizations. The next section focuses on the method of research of surveying and interviewing two sets of leadership training program alumni. The following sections provide an analysis and the results of the research questions. From these results, certain issues become apparent regarding the reasons for usage and frequency of usage of the networks including the desire, opportunity, and necessity of creating and maintaining networks. Additional prescriptions are made that lend themselves to other leadership training programs such as whether or not to explicitly identify, establish, and sustain networking in these programs.

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Networks are created and maintained for various reasons. People use networks for social and human relations, career advancement and job searches, for political and legislative purposes, group work, formal and informal dissemination of information, and leadership training (Hickson and Stacks, 1998). Since networks are fundamental to our own existence, networks are also fundamental to the existence and sustenance of organizations and their leaders. The training of these organizational leaders is often done through international, community and state-wide leadership programs.

According to the National Association for Community Leadership, there are 650 to 750 community leadership programs in the United States. Furthermore, these leadership training programs are growing from efforts in smaller towns and cities rather than from the state-wide or national levels (National Association for Community Leadership, December 1995). These programs are designed to create community leaders through educating participants on business, political, and community issues, and they involve grouping together individuals in order to address these issues or concerns. In so doing, whether overtly or covertly, leadership programs are essentially creating networking structures with the potential to have long-term effects on issues. Thus, networks are an important component of leadership course curricula. They are the medium through which key information can be disseminated and problems solved. For example, the Leadership Huntington program created networking opportunities that might have been missed through the cocktail party and fund raising circuit (Winzelberg, 2001). To examine how these leadership training programs attempt to create, maintain, foster, and utilize networks for and among their participants, a survey based exploratory case study was conducted to determine the frequency usage of their program networks regarding particular issues for two well established leadership training programs. One of the training programs is a state-wide program in the heartland and the other is a county based east coast training program. To complement the information provided by this study, literature on leadership and networking is reviewed.

Network Literature Review

Successful networking involves establishing relationships, gaining information from these relationships, and maintaining these relationships. Thus, leaders must be skilled in networking to progress in an organization. As leaders become more networked within an organization, they become more skilled perceivers, and their ability to interpret situations accurately is enhanced (Hosking & Morley, 1988). Leaders also become more powerful and influential within an organization if they are highly involved within a network. According to Barge (1994):

   Position centrality has been correlated with
   power, and since leaders are typically the
   most centrally located individuals within a
   network, they usually possess a high
   amount of personal power. …