Guest post from Kathy Reich
For a while I’ve been puzzling over what makes a good network leader. The traditional models of organizational leadership clearly don’t apply, but then, which models do? The Grantmakers Gathering on Networks provided a few a-ha moments for me about network leadership:
- The first leader or leaders in a network are like first responders at the scene of a crash—they’re in charge of making things happen until the structures get set up to fully address the situation. No one tells them to take on this role—they do it because they see the need, or the crisis, or (best yet) the opportunity. (With apologies to the woman in Rafael Lopez’s network leadership discussion group, who offered this great analogy and whose name I didn’t catch!)
- From Leslye Louie of Encore Fellowships (http://www.encore.org/fellowships), network leaders “Seed, then cede.” They find other great leaders within the network, then step back and let them lead.
- Developing talent within a network fuels innovation. If you don’t share the leadership, the network won’t remain relevant, and it won’t survive.
- When you start building networks, you won’t be out of there by lunch. It takes time, and leaders had better commit to be there for a long time. Years, usually.
- Network leaders have to earn their authority within the network. No one is going to hand it to you with flowers and a box of chocolates.
- From Marty Kearns (http://www.network-centricadvocacy.net/): Networks empower resilience and redundance in leadership. No one should be irreplaceable in a network.
- From Eugene Eric Kim (http://groupaya.net/): the route to change is people.
- When it comes to network leadership—and everything else in networks, for that matter—there’s a limit to how much you can prepare. You just have to do, because experience is the best teacher. As Eugene Eric Kim said this morning, “What can you do to start practicing, without having to wait to know what the answers are?”
So, what are you going to do next to lead, in whatever networks you find yourself?
Kathy Reich is program officer for organizational effectiveness and philanthropy at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Follow her on Twitter at @kdreich, or check out the work of the OE program at http://packard-foundation-oe.wikispaces.com/.