Imagery of Regent people and campus

Dissertation Abstract

Leadership of Organizational Networks: An Exploration of the Relationship between Leadership and Social Networks in Organizations

Daniel A. Novak
May 2008

Viable and productive social networks in organizations result in many positive outcomes for organizations. Thus, leaders should intentionally desire to build the strength of social networks within their groups and organizations. However, intentional network-building behaviors are elusive and have not been positively identified or empirically tested at the group level. Traditional leadership approaches have tended to ignore the important role of organizational networks in leadership, yet leadership effectiveness in many organizations now hinges upon the leader’s ability to operate, manage, and lead within a networked context. A better understanding of the agentic factors that build viable networks—and how the process of network building takes place—will enlighten leaders as to characteristics and behaviors that build organizational networks. The fluidity and globalization exhibited by many organizations suggest that leadership effectiveness in the future may be measured on a leader’s ability to lead a network—not a group or unit. This study explored the beliefs, attitudes, attributes, and behaviors that are related to acts of leadership and building viable, persistent organizational networks. A broad range of factors has been proposed in the literature that relate to leadership and networks—but most of the assumptions have been poorly explored until now. This exploratory and inductive research sought to address that gap in the literature. This study collected quantitative network data and qualitative interview data from multiple cases in one large high technology company. Social network analysis and qualitative content analysis were employed to explore the extent of networking and the social antecedents of networks. The findings of the study suggest that leaders can influence networks by understanding and employing the concepts of awareness, trust, and intentionality. The factors identified in this study are the first steps in helping leaders understand how to become network leaders. Implications and suggestions for future research are also offered.