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6 Characteristics of An Effective Network Leader

The challenges that our communities face outstrip the capacity of any one organization to solve. Blight, generational poverty, growing homelessness are the symptoms of a ‘system’ that is failing to focus on the basics of what makes our communities vibrant.

I worked with Mark Skinner, at the State Science and Technology Institute, last year to create a conversation about networks tackling the challenges that are holding communities back. We worked with the amazing team at Epicenter Memphis to present on Network Leadership over Individual/Organizational Leadership at the SSTI annual conference. At the past two annual conferences we have led a workshop with participants engaged in evolving their own views to those of other representatives in their community. More on that in a future post.

Gleaned from our many discussions on Network Leadership, here are six characteristics of an effective Network Leader that consistently came up in conversation:

Prioritizes a People-centric Vision

Vision is what compels action by others and we must always prioritize the people at the center of the vision. Chronic issues that I mentioned before like homelessness and generational poverty have people at the center, requiring empathy, understanding, and appreciation for people to create effective solutions.

Can See the Big Picture

Silos of interest and control can limit a leader’s ability to shift focus to the main issues affecting a community. When leaders are able to grasp the big picture, priorities more easily fall into place, aligning strategy with what’s best for your community.

Builds Trust

This is the most critical of the roles of an effective network leader. Trust is what motivates people to join a cause and lasts far beyond the end of a project or administration. Great network leaders instill confidence in those that they are leading, creating a community of trust that spurs effective change.

Doesn’t Seek Credit or Control

Leadership is not about the prize or the ability to dictate the actions of others. Effective leadership revels in the ability to make a difference as a collective and celebrates when the people they serve are better off.

Names and Resolves Conflict

Healthy communities inevitably have conflict when people are encouraged to openly share opinions. Network Leaders dive in and work with their peers to understand various viewpoints, fine tuning ideas and strategies to find common ground for the greater good.

Acts Transparently

Network Leaders must always clearly communicate why and how they are advancing their work. This directly ties back to connecting people, vision, and trust to your movement. Open channels of communication throughout a leadership structure inspire a culture of collaboration, resulting in more effective change. Acting in secrecy excludes others, often resulting in distrust and division.

Drop me a note if these points resonate or you want to join in the conversation around Network Leadership. Also, we will be hosting a Network Leadership session at this year’s International Economic Development Council conference in Indianapolis, IN. Your feedback has allowed this thinking to evolve from my earlier posting on Civic Leadership, so please keep your thoughts coming in.


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