Step 5

Decide on leadership of the network

The skills involved in leading a network are different from those required for traditional organisations. Network leaders need to attempt to create a democratic, inclusive atmosphere and to facilitate rather than lead. Cooperation, transparency, commitment and respect need to be modelled. Peer relationships and constant dialogue require emphasising. The ability to negotiate and be comfortable with conflict and difference are important attributes of network leaders.

Network leadership has some important pitfalls that should be avoided. It is all too easy on the one hand to over-manage a network and on the other hand to leave it flailing and directionless. It’s also easy for the network to become hierarchical over time with embedded leadership. Network leaders need endurance, focus and flexibility.

Leaders have to cope with the fact that networks are dynamic, have shifting membership and are subject to considerable instability. Members’ commitment and energy will naturally fluctuate. The leaders’ job is to harness energy and to re-energise as necessary.