Why Leaders Are Networkers

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By Jas Singh

Last year I was lucky enough to attend a business lecture by professor Ronald Burthosted by The University Chicago business school. Professor Burt is a world renowned expert in studying social networks and how they create competitive advantage in careers, organizations, and markets. For anyone interested in the science of networking his book Brokerage and Closure is a fascinating read.

Although we all “know” networking is beneficial, most of us believe we should do more. More professional networking. More effort to make new friends. Even get to know our neighbours better. But usually the hectic schedules of our lives take over.

But the evidence is overwhelming. Put simply networkers achieve more. Networkers are much more likely to develop into Leadership roles in business.

Here are some of the reasons why:

1) Good networkers receive more opportunities

Probably the most obvious and traditionally viewed benefit of networking is that you are more likely to come across an opportunity that may be of interest. The guy with a hundred contacts is more likely to be introduced to a new date than someone who has a limited social life and works in an isolated job. But believe it or not, being “given” opportunities on a plate is actually not the major advantage of networking. Once established, good networkers focus more on giving than receiving (see point 4 below).

The key word here though is “good”. To develop a good network you need to be a good networker. Networking is a skill that must be developed. Otherwise, if done incorrectly bad networking can be just as destructive.

2) Networkers are more visible

We all know the legendary stories – nearly every super-achiever has a tale of how they were given their first big break. Whether it is Stephen Spielberg convincing the management at Universal Studios or Warren Buffet knocking on Benjamin Graham’s door as a 20-something wannabe investor.

What we often forget is how often they tried.

Often we think people get “lucky” but leaders make their own luck. Even luck is logical – the more people you are exposed to, the more chance there is to get lucky. Leaders network more so they are in more situations where opportunity can “see” them.

3) A good network is a good reputation

In today’s increasingly connected word people are constantly looking to improve their knowledge of the people they work with. In a now legendary study, the CEB even found that now nearly 60% of all purchasing decisions are made before a company even talks to a supplier!

The implications of this are clear – chose your network carefully and ensure you are offering value. Connect with those that you want to be associated with, not just anybody. And what’s more, by focussing on networking with the people you want you are also more likely to be referred by them to similar types of people.

4) Networkers can help more people

But top of the list, more important than all the above factors combined is that networkers have one unbeatable advantage to everyone else….they are in a position to give more.

Giving is the key to leadership. All success is the by-product of value – providing something that others need in return for money, recognition or love.

The greatest leaders in any calling are the ones who have served their people best. From Nelson Mandela freeing his country in the political world to Howard Schultz bringing coffee to America in the business world, leaders GIVE.

A bigger network allows us to serve more people. The highest achievers spend their time to build focussed networks so they can learn more about others and serve more people.

Conclusion

Networking is viewed by some as being underhand – trying to forge relationships with others only so you can gain something. In fact the opposite is true, if you genuinely believe you offer value, then networking actually allows you to serve more people.

Hiring managers can find the leaders of the future by looking for those with either the ability or desire to network well.

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