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New approaches for cultivating and nourishing communications networks take a more human interaction approach to the effective transmission of needed knowledge than do traditional approaches. New approaches emphasize the building and maintenance of what is called leadership sharing (LS) communications networks, whereas traditional approaches emphasized noise and other transmission distorting factors. The following quote from a communication practitioner makes our point.
In business and innovation, communications have one primary, overriding purpose-to build relationships. Not to inform or persuade, not to plan or contract, not to document or account, not to direct or report, not to buy or sell, but to build lasting relationships. Hard to accept, isn’t it. That means that product brochures are not really about products. Business plans not about businesses. Project reviews not about projects. Sales calls not about sales. (G. Lunquest, personal communication, August 7, 2007)
Most employers of college graduates look for at least two critical skills in new hires—communications and dependability. Unfortunately, some of the more technically competent in terms of grade point average (GPA) are passed over because of a weakness in either of these two critical skills. In addition and equally important, this research-paper is about how a college student with an average GPA can become a person who employers will hire for the better jobs. This research-paper is about both communications and dependability in an organization. It goes beyond the fundamental skills of speaking, writing, and informational technology to constructing and maintaining high-speed, ego-based communications networks from your first job until retirement. Graen and Graen (2007) and their colleagues have shown that the proper communication networks are contributors to both job and career success and to overall team effectiveness. But what are the proper networks? Before we discuss this key question, let us put together a straightforward framework for conceptualizing communications networks.
Human organizational communications are messages sent and received containing both information and tone. A base communication requires a sender, a communications link, and a receiver. Lacking any one of these three components is not complete communications. As shown in Figure 74.1, communications within and between organizational members are divided into those formally specified often in writing and those that informally emerge through human interaction about the work of the organization (unwritten). Furthermore, both formal and informal communications can be divided into instrumental and expressive. Instrumental refers to doing some work and expressive means to add a personal touch. For our purposes, this is detailed enough for the formal, but we shall precede one division more for the informal. The informal instrumental and expressive can be divided further into offers or requests for work advice, for work assistance, for advice on personal problems, and for friendship. At this point, communications can create reputations and relationships of dependability. Those individuals who understand how to develop an authentic and trustworthy collegial relationship can use informal instrumental communications to offer and request both work assistance and work advice. In contrast, most individuals can offer or request both personal advice and friendship. We will focus this research-paper first on the two instrumental activities. Before we do this, we need to discuss communications networks.
Figure 74.1 Communications Framework
In organizations, 85% of all researched decisions involve getting advice from other people rather than searching relevant databases (Doz, Santos, & Wilkamson, 2001). For this reason, networks are constructed carefully one link at a time in an organization involving a sender, a link, and a receiver. Beginning with the first day on the job network opportunities emerge. Only the foolish new employees would commit to any network until they understand the nature of the various networks. Membership in some net-works may be detrimental to one’s career by aligning one with a discredited network. Before any link is forged with a colleague, the wise new employee assesses the attached network for hidden costs and if an error is made, it can be pruned quickly.
As shown in Figure 74.2, an ego network represents the focal person and those people who are directly connected in the network of communications. An extended ego network includes all those people who are connected to the ego by at least two lengths. In the example, Mike is linked to the leader via the link with Marcus (two links) and the leader, Marty, and Marcus represent a triad. Note that no links directly connect Mike with Marty, connect the two with Jessie, or connects Jessie, Marty, Mike, or Marcus. These missing links are called network holes. The leader and Marcus are most central with the most links and Jessie and Mike are isolates with only one link to the core. These networks can be analyzed easily by available computer programs (Krackhardt & Hanson, 1993). Thus, employee’s managers and executives must learn to think in terms of networks of different kinds and the overlap between and among them (Gibbons & Grover, 2006).
Figure 74.2 Dyads, Triads, Indirect Relationships
Leadership Sharing Networks
Now that we understand how networks are described in terms of links or relationships, we shall focus on the critical informal instrumental communication links. These links may become the web that leads into competence networks. A competence network is an informal communications network of people who get the impossible done and who keep the organization functioning. It is comprised of real doers who know how to successfully bypass formal dead ends and accomplish things in extra organizational manners. These networks are difficult to join because new candidates must prove themselves worthy under fire, and the tests are unannounced and often unfair.
Competence networks are constructed from informal, instrumental communications links by sharing leadership on a project or a job problem. This is begun by offering or requesting work assistance or work advice of a colleague and his or her acceptance. Such offers or requests may grow into a shared leadership relationship over repeated exchanges through offering work assistance or advice on a job problem to a colleague and having it accepted and their reciprocating your kindness. This informally accepted interdependence usually starts with specific small problems and can successively grow to include much larger activities. As the exchanges become increasingly more complex, mutual respect and trust expand until the transformation of the exchanges from mutually instrumental to mutually expressive. At this point, the LS is between close friends. Such relationships once established may last over the entire lives of the two people.
At the extreme of this process are networks of dyads (two-person links) that depend on each other for their very lives such as surgical teams, soldiers, fire rescue workers, and police. These jobs put people in harm’s way and LS at the highest level is demanded. Below this are highly competitive units of organizations in turbulent environments. Lower still are the situations of career cooperation and competition in our life. Below this are professional sports. We are educated to the fact that our careers are a series of progressively more difficult competitions with our peers and yet we must cooperate with them. The answer to this conundrum is that we cooperate within our LS networks and compete with our peers outside them. Our studies of entire careers of college graduates who joined the same large, multinational corporation in 1972 and retired in 2002 showed that those who most effectively practiced LS networking were most successful throughout their careers in terms of speed of promotion and compensation (Graen, Dharwadkar, Grewal, & Wakabayashi, 2006).
LS should begin with the most significant others to an employee and this usually includes the direct report (supervisor). It should proceed to the next most significant other and then the next and so on. Periodically new relationships will be added as needed until one’s leadership networks cover all relevant functions inside and outside the employing organization. One way to look at your LS networks is that these people will help you when you need them most. Those outside of your networks likely will turn you and your problems away with “sorry, that’s not my job,” but those inside will assure you that “your problem is my problem, and we’ll get it solved somehow.”
In this way, LS relationships in which the parties agree to share who leads and who follows on various parts of projects augment the power of the formal organization to get things done. In these LS exchanges, who leads and who follows to support frequently are based on who has needed appropriate skills, information, and influence resources. In these networks, all get to lead some of the time. A network of these is called leadership sharing networks. These networks are the keys to understanding emergent events be-cause when organizations are faced with new opportunities, whether positive or negative, the relevant LS networks are activated to cope. These networks, once activated, can be monitored to identify and map the organization’s reaction. The wise employee can enhance his or her career progress by identifying, monitoring, and joining local networks.
The earliest links will be with a new employee’s direct supervisor, unit peers, and those whose work is interdependent. Choices of links must be made quickly, but the offers should be carefully assessed for the long term. How can a new employee make such career relevant decisions quickly? Following are some things that may help.
Figure 74.3 Leadership Sharing Strategies of Leader and Follower
Supervisor can be categorized into three strategies for communication relationship development and employees reporting to supervisors can be categorized into three categories according to the Graen and Graen (2007) as shown in Figure 74.3. Supervisor’s strategies for LS communications relations with his or her team are (a) team maker, who makes initial offers to all team members; (b) cherry picker, who makes offers only to the chosen few; and (c) isolate, who makes no offer to any team member. The first strategy is the most work for both the supervisor and the team members who accept. The second strategy is less work but returns less benefit. Finally, the no-offer strategy is no work and no benefits. In contrast, when the supervisor focuses on his or her nonteam members in the organization, the strategy of choice may be different. For many situations the supervisor should use strategy a for the team and strategy b for outside the team, because we find supervisors should be seen as fair beyond a doubt with his or her team but selective outside the team (Graen, Hui, & Taylor, 2006).
Employees who report directly to a supervisor should make offers to selective people including the supervisor and use the cherry picker strategy. The shotgun strategy of offering to all is to risk in that poor choices of network members have negative consequences on better choices. Therefore, the cherry picker strategy implies that one picks carefully based on respect of capabilities and trust in dependability. Those colleagues who do not pass the tests at any point are dropped from one’s network. Clearly, the process needs to be discussed and should not be attempted by the nonserious employee. Next, we turn to some dos and don’ts. Some dos and don’ts for the newcomers are as follows:
- Do join the correct LS networks as soon as feasible and choose wisely.
- Don’t join the wrong LS networks, because some links can be poison to your effectiveness.
- Do commit to chosen LS network links until proven faulty and then cut ties quickly and publicly.
- Do nurture valuable LS network links to grow them to maturity.
- Do maintain mature links by paying dues regularly.
- Don’t forget to forge triads and teams within your networks.
- Do grow ever larger and more diverse LS networks inside and outside of your organization.
- Do understand that LS networks keep the entire organization functioning and they change over time.
- Don’t forget that this is a well researched communications theory, but it must be applied carefully and everyone makes mistakes.
The research is clear that people use other people much more than databases for making decisions at work and the people with whom they consult are key member of the LS network. Why should this be the case? Databases supply more valid facts than experts, but they cannot make the necessary value judgments to back up a critical decision in a turbulent situation.
In addition to decision support, your LS network can supply other valuable resources such as
- helping hands from others on your job problems;
- inside information about the organization;
- influence beyond your job;
- latitude in your use of resources;
- access to other’s resources;
- opportunities to make a difference; and
- support by others.
What Others Seek Of You And What You Should Seek Of Others
We asked over 1,000 managers in five leading manufacturing companies how they attempted to demonstrate their LS potential to select their colleagues (Graen, 1989, 2007). The following 13 actions distinguished between effective employees and others:
- demonstrate initiative to get things moving (self-starter);
- attempt to exercise leadership to make the things more effective (show the way);
- show a willingness to take risks to accomplish assignments (be bold);
- strive to add to the value of assignments (go beyond);
- actively seek out new assignments for self-improvement (volunteer);
- persist on a valuable project after others give up (stay the course);
- build elaborate LS networks to extend capability (push the envelope);
- influence others by doing something extra (set an example);
- deal constructively to resolve ambiguity (think it out);
- seek wider exposure to people outside the home division (get outside);
- apply technical training on the job, and build on that training to develop broader expertise (stay current);
- work to build and maintain a close working relationship with the immediate supervisor and colleagues (seek LS links); and
- work to get the members of the LS networks promoted (boost your network members).
The following examples illustrate how each of these actions enabled these followers to become key players.
By demonstrating initiative, followers make their bosses and colleagues aware that they are eager to outgrow their jobs. For example, they may demonstrate initiative by identifying problem areas in their jobs and then acting to correct the problems. Thus, when you see a problem with a customer order and handle the problem the way you have seen your manager handle it before (even though this is not part of your job description), you are indicating to your boss that you are capable of and willing to take on added responsibilities.
An important characteristic of key players is that they are able to exercise leadership when necessary. You show this by helping your colleagues perform their jobs more efficiently and by providing direction when they are not certain as to the best method to use. In addition, you attempt to exercise leadership by offering to take charge of special projects such as interdepartmental task forces, which will help to develop your LS network.
The need to take risks increases as you reach higher levels in the organization. Similarly, those managers who are going to be successful in the organization are willing to take calculated risks in their dealings with their boss and colleagues. One way managers may do this is by communicating to their superior’s and colleagues’ hidden problems in the work process or soliciting advice or added resources as needed even though pressure in the work group dictates that this is not done. Similarly, they may take risks by supporting issues that they believe are correct, even though others in the work unit may not support the issue. In addition, they are not afraid to talk about their mistakes. Rather, they use past follies to their advantage by indicating to others what they have learned from their mistakes.
They are constantly looking for opportunities to grow in their jobs. They find that one of the best ways to do this is to make their work more challenging and meaningful. For example, in his job as a supervisor of a market research department, Bill Atsuta found that unless he added value to his work, his job became boring and repetitious and did not allow him to develop his skills. Thus, rather than just monitoring the performance of the telephone interviewers, as his job description suggested, he added value to his job by offering his managers input as to how interviews could be conducted more effectively, and he wrote unsolicited reports to those network members in charge of the development of the interviews that identified problem areas and made suggestions for improvement. Because of his extra effort, Bill found himself promoted to department head and on his way to the fast track.
Rather than waiting for others to offer them opportunities, they seek opportunities on their own to make the most out of not only their jobs but also themselves. Thus, they look for opportunities that will allow them to develop their skills and to grow on the job. They may request special training or take on assignments that require them to use new skills. They may also ask others in their networks to indicate their strengths and weaknesses so that they may improve in their areas of weakness.
Persist On A Project
If an assignment appears to be going nowhere, pause a moment in order to ask your network to help you to view the assignment in a new way. If even this strategy leads to failure, which in some cases it does, assess the situation to find out what went wrong and use the mistake as an opportunity for learning. Perhaps most important, learn never to make the same mistake twice.
Getting ahead means making as many strong contacts in your field as possible—in particular, contacts with those in competence networks. Find out what is going on in the organization and who is responsible for getting work problems solved. Then, initiate relationships with these people, which involved helping them or providing them with information that would help them in their positions. By building credits with the people in this network, you are thus able to obtain resources and accomplish things that would not have been possible without the help of others.
Influencing others is not as easy as it may appear. It involves building credibility, as well as adjusting your interpersonal style to match those of others. As you build your LS networks, you learn to be authentic even when it hurts.
One of the most difficult problems for employees and managers in organizations is learning how to deal with ambiguity because ambiguity characterizes many of the difficult situations people face in the work place. Frequently, it is unclear what is not working, why it is not working, or what is needed in order to make things work. Also, people in the workplace may present ambiguous requests or offer ambiguous rationales. Those people who learn how to handle these ambiguous situations most effectively find themselves on the fast track. When you find yourself working with a boss who is always very ambiguous in his requests, take several steps to deal with the ambiguity rather than simply becoming frustrated and not completing the assignments. Perhaps most importantly, take the initiative to gather as much information and assistance as possible from your network of supervisors, peers, and others. When necessary, make educated assumptions that allow you to continue the task. Throughout the process, approach your network for brief feedback on whether you are performing the assignment properly. By using your network knowledge and best judgment, complete ambiguous tasks while requiring very little of your supervisor’s time.
Seek Wider Exposure
Because information is such a powerful resource in organizations, employees who aspire to get ahead actively seek ways to gather more information through forming networks. One way to do this is by associating with people outside the home division. By interacting with outside managers, you gain a better understanding of your organization and its operations, as well as of the different problems faced by members of other departments.
Build on Existing Skills
When new employees enter organizations, they have a certain amount of knowledge and technical skills that make them desirable to the organization. Often, however, this technical training is limited, and within a relatively short period, it may become obsolete. Thus, managers must continually work to keep their technical skills current through interactions within their networks.
Develop a Good Working Relationship With Your Boss and Other Network Members
One of the most powerful influences in your career progress is your immediate boss. Your boss controls the types of opportunities and resources as well as the types of rewards that you will receive from the organization. It is vital that you strive to develop the best working relationships possible with your boss and other network members.
Promote Your Boss and Network Members
One of the best ways to get accepted to the LS network may be to work toward promoting your boss and your network members: do your job the best you can so that you help make them look good. Then, when they advance through the organization, they may help you along.
All of these activities require employees to grow out of the narrow confines of their job by constructing a network, which provides opportunities to assume greater personal responsibility by taking larger risks and by growing more quickly professionally. Those upstairs will notice these activities and make a difference to your career. Participation in these activities communicates readiness for network investment. Once noticed as a person with a powerful network, you become a candidate for investment and additional opportunities to show your stuff likely will be forthcoming (see Graen, 2007 for useful methods).
Before you can hope to establish a LS link with another, you must pass his or her entrance test and convince him or her that you can be trusted to deliver on your promises and that you have something of value to offer. Convincing your potential partner of the former is more difficult than the latter; however, both require some thought. Even a great “pickup” line only gets momentary attention. Then, you must follow through with your proof.
Some people believe that people trust you or do not trust you based on rumors about you. True, some basis for trust can be found in this way, although it is too unreliable. This is open to stereotyping and biases. What is recommended is a more direct approach called the “growth need interview.” This interview is designed to suggest to others that you are interested in furthering your career by describing your interests and ambitions. This attempt to show your growth needs as an individual can go a long way toward passing the entrance test. Through such conversations, which may stretch out over several weeks, you tell your selected others what you want now and what you hope for in long term. Also, you ask your selected others to share the same information with you. It may be uncomfortable at first, but it becomes routine after a conversation.
After this interview, the next step is to achieve an initial challenge to begin growing out of one’s job in the form of some small request that is somewhat outside of the selected other’s expectations. This offer should make clear that this request is authentic and requires no exchange of like kind. If you require special information or other resources, ask for them. In addition, if you get into trouble, your colleague will be obliged to help you out. Once the request is fulfilled, you should receive your colleague’s thanks. The early “grabber” rewards are material and the later “sustaining” rewards are more social and self-fulfilling.
Graen (2006) and his associates (Graen, Hui, & Taylor, 2006) have developed a measure that taps into the magnitude of sharing leadership expectation (SLX) with six sensitive questions you ask yourself about each and every member of your personal network at work. The higher your score when you are brutally honest the greater your chance of developing a shared leadership relation. Start with your immediate supervisor; next, do each of those who report to you; and continue with all those people who depend on you or who you depend at work. For each of the six questions, the responses are strongly disagree (1), disagree (2), don’t know (3), agree (4), and strongly agree (5). The six questions are as follows.
- Is my (colleague, supervisor, or subordinate) satisfied with my work?
- Would my (colleague, supervisor, or subordinate) help me with my job problem?
- Does my (colleague, supervisor, or subordinate) have confidence in my ideas?
- Does my (colleague, supervisor, or subordinate) have trust that I would carry my workload?
- Does my (colleague, supervisor, or subordinate) have respect for my capabilities?
- Do I have an excellent working relationship with my (colleague, supervisor, or subordinate)?
When you add your six scores, the range of scores is 6 to 36, and the higher your score is, the greater your chance of developing a LS link is. If your score with, say, your supervisor is low (24 or below), you should act quickly to correct this unfavorable situation. Clearly, the six questions should help you identify the areas that need your immediate attention. When you first start your job, your score should be about 24, because you do not know about any of the six areas. Test yourself at appropriate intervals and act to improve the problem areas. You have these tools to help you in your quest to become a key communicator in your organization and make a difference.
If you pass this initial test, you seek another larger project. After a few of these exchanges, your selected colleague will begin to trust your promises. But never make a promise that you cannot keep. When your selected colleague offers the challenges, seek more and explain the developmental process in terms of mutual benefit. If your other demurs, keep working until all hope is lost. If you reject your leader’s offers, they will cease being offered. You cannot rightly complain after you reject an offer, so be careful. You may opt back into the process later when they see the growth and achievements of your peers who completed the process from the first offer.
Though these informal episodes of seeking and achieving appropriate challenges based on current work flows and the developing needs, getting support for your projects, and rewards after the projects are completed, mutual trust, respect, and commitment grow. Over this process, the challenging projects become more responsible and the corresponding rewards become more significant. The process of building LS networks flows smoothly once the initial tests are passed and both parties continue to construct ever-stronger bonds of mutual trust, respect, and commitment.
Our research investigations have shown that leaders and followers who complete this process gain the advantages of performance beyond expectations, satisfaction with their jobs and their careers, mutual trust, respect, commitment, and optimism about the future. Over their careers, they consistently develop these agreements with their leaders, followers, and peers as they move up the hierarchy of their companies until they find their dream job. Finally, they move up higher and faster than their peers do over their careers and arrive home earlier.
What Is The Advantage?
From a network member’s viewpoint, because a potential partner grows from a supporter to a partner through the process, he or she and the focal person have created strategic human assets (Uhl-Bien, Graen, & Scandura, 2000). When one partner has a problem that he or she cannot solve, the other partner will help even though it may cost him or her personally or professionally. As one network member goes beyond his or her job, the other reciprocates in kind. All parties share information openly and honestly, even when it may be painful. Both create their own network language based upon shared experiences (Fairhurst, 1993). This language allows one member to talk to the other in their coded language in the presence of others without their comprehending.
Contingent Communications Strategies
Strategies for different structural locations in the formal organization require different strategies to develop LS communication relations. As shown in Figure 74.4, vertical (or direct authority flows) relations should have different strategies than other (or no direct authority flows) relations. This is due to the complications that one party has superior control of the other’s formal organizational outcomes such as promotion and dismissals. Clearly, career outcomes are influenced by one’s superior. This should be divided further into upward and downward, because upward is constrained by concerns for showing respect for the office, being seen authentic and career outcome concerns and downward is constrained by concerns about being seen as fair to all group members and achieving group goals.
Figure 74.4 Communications Strategies
In situations where the other potential communications relations have no direct authority flows to the ego, different strategies should be applied for those above the ego’s level (upward), those at the same level (same), and those below (downward). The differences in strategies among those three directions on the organization’s chart differ contingent upon slightly different constraints on actions of ego. Upward is constrained by the needs to be seen as both respectful of the superior status, authentic as a person, and not be seen as going over someone’s head. At the same level, ego’s communications strategy is constrained by the need to balance cooperation with career competition. Finally, downward relations are constrained by respect of formal communications and authority flows and the need not to be seen as going behind someone’s back.
With all of these benefits of LS, why do so many leaders of creative teams fail to engage the process fully? As was described by Kramer (2006), one communication strategy to initiate team LS is for the leader to admit that he or she does not have all of the answers and ask for suggestions from team members. Those who readily offer suggestions are encouraged and recognized for good ideas but are protected from criticism for poor ideas. Those team members who resist offering suggestions can be asked again and again. This process is self-correcting as the team will help sort out the more useful from the less useful ideas when given the opportunity. One question that arises from this is what factors inhibit the easy acceptance of this promising method of building a creative team of LS teammates.
We find that managers we have trained to become leaders usually have several doubts about entering a process of LS. First, they fear a loss of control by giving team members too much latitude in decision making and coordination of the team may become too difficult and make them look bad. Second, they fear that team members will ask for personal favors and create embarrassing obligations for leaders. Third, they fear that team members will find out that they do not have all of the answers and lose respect for them. Finally, although many more fears have been expressed, the last resort is that their teammates do not want to share leadership with them. These fears must be addressed and worked through before leaders will test the unknown of LS.
Fortunately, these fears can be overcome with proper training in the strategies of LS. Trainees come to understand that the process of sharing leadership is a successive approximation process in which successively more significant opportunities are reinforced when successful with progressively more meaningful recognition and resources. Also, they learn that followers must be made to succeed especially early in the development.
As the process unfolds, followers who share leadership grow into leaders within the team and share equitably in the success of the team. They grow out of their old roles and into new roles within the team. They come to understand that team leadership can be multiplied by following appropriate strategies. Team leaders come to recognize that sharing too much leadership too soon is a strategic mistake. They learn that until a follower is prepared to respect and enact a LS opportunity, it should not be given. After they are given, opportunities need to be supported as necessary to ensure success, because success invigorates the growth of shared leadership. Clearly, the benefits outweigh the risks in building a creative LS team. Even when a leader develops only one member into a LS partner, the benefits are worth the effort.
New approaches for cultivating and nourishing communications have highlighted a number of generalizations about organizational behavior.
Most of communication behavior of humans in organizations is overdetermined by the rules and procedures of the formal organization enforced by legal contracts and agreements. That being stated, the most interesting and beneficial behavior is underdetermined and is called informal communication. Both are necessary for an organization’s survival. Informal organization is governed by the nature of humans as self-aware, need satisfying, social creatures with limited rationality, imperfect information, creative imaginations, and deep-seated hopes and fears.
Informal communications can be mapped in terms of networks of expertise, information, influence, and social capital at any point in time and over time in terms of flows sensing relevant events, sense making, and implementation throughout the organization and its environments. As Orton and Dhillon (2006) described the flows of strategy, formulation goes from microactions (low levels) to meso-options (middle levels) to macrostrategy (top levels of organization) for the purpose of continuously improving the organization’s future. One key to this mapping process is the rigorous measurement of relationships between formal and informal influences on individual, team, and network flows of behavior.
Figure 74.5 It Takes a Network
Informal communication relations are granted between employees in exchange and in proportion for shared leadership. Thus, for a person to grow his or her leadership influence to get the right things done the right way with others, he or she must find a way to share leadership with those ready and willing to invest it properly. As shown in Figure 74.5, people who understand this multiplier effect are those who are most successful over their entire careers.
Those who understand that LS among members creates social capital throughout networks should encourage their associates and followers to do so for the good of their organization and their careers.
They can destroy their social capital if they are not careful. Those who understand this and respect their followers will benefit from social capital.
Those who successfully grow influence in their networks also agree that those in their networks can in turn influence them.
Certain people in organizations can form a competence network for a focal person. This is an influence network made up of people with abundant social capital who get “impossible” things done in bureaucracies (Graen, 1989 & 2007).
We support the marriage of communications theory and network analysis theory and hope that the new theory of LS in teams and networks is a step in that direction. We expected the goal to be reached soon after our early research showed that one’s leader’s relationship with his or her boss limited the influence and social capital of a focal person (G. B. Graen, Cashman, Ginsburg, & Schiemann, 1977). The communications network up the chain of command made a difference for lower participants.
The impact of what a leader says to his or her follower depends on the particular LS link between the two (Wang, Law, Hackett, Wang, & Chen, 2004). A leader may use any of a number of transformation leadership styles, but the proof of the pudding is in the critical sharing of leadership. We should not be fooled by the ease of training leaders to talk the transformation talk to followers and forget about the critical process of using authentic LS to grow leadership and other social capital (Bass & Avolio, 1997). Clearly, it does not matter what the leader says about vision, if followers do not really listen and buy in. We need to let one million flowers bloom to understand more authentic leadership.
As we enter the information age, communications becomes even more critical to effectiveness of individual, dyads, triads, teams, silos, organizations, industries, and so on. Communications relations both motivate and direct activities at all levels in our increasingly turbulent environments. Those networks that supply the needed information and resources will determine the future of people and their organizations in the 21st century.
For those who aspire to make a difference for their maker and share in the success of modern organizations in this information age, we recommend that they do their homework and cultivate and nourish their communication networks. Herein lies the key to success for those who choose wisely.
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