There is no doubt that many people among us will become leaders in our career life. Since a leader is the key to the performance and harmony of a group, I am therefore motivated to look at the relationship between leadership and social network.
One particular number that I learnt before first came into my mind. Do you know that to be a successful leader, how many percents of time you need to spend on communicating? It’s surprisingly 90% according to Project Management Institute. No matter the communication is proceeded in forms of oral or written, official or unofficial, this implies that a successful leader needs to pay attention to the networks around him.
The notable marketing professional Seth Godin defined the groups of people that share a common interest and have a way to communicate as tribes. An effective leader in a tribe should improve the communication between tribe members and the leader. It should be avoided for leaders not being open enough to allow members to contact them. A strong network within a tribe should have fluent communication flows, either horizontally or vertically. By doing so, the network can reach high tightness. [Source: 1, 2]
In the research paper, The Ties that Lead: A Social Network Approach to Leadership, there is an interesting point saying that leaders are responsible to maintain the emotional health of all employees. It is because isolates and structural holes in network usually signal the existence of emotional distress which will result in the damage of the network. [Source: 3]
[Close Guanxi and Fear]
There are studies, however, on how close network in work environment can cause negative impacts, particularly the Guanxi concept in traditional Chinese culture. Guanxi refers to the relationship with others from self perspective. On the other hand, guanxi for most Chinese people is a channel of favor exchanging. It is said that in a network close guanxi can affect a leader’s decision. Take job hunting for example, people tend to refer to friends or families with stronger guanxi first. [4, 5]
Nevertheless, I believe that there’s necessity for an effective leader to take care of social network within a tribe. Now the problem is HOW? Some suggestions to tighten the networks are below:
1. Open for communication
People like to be heard. Leaders need regular face-to-face communication as well as online communication platform. This is NOT to monitor the activities of the network, but rather to manifest a willingness of communication.
2. Create positive emotions
A successful former-CEO in Taiwan ever told me, “I build up relationship with subordinates by going to Karaoke with them. And, I always learn one or two popular songs even if they are difficult for me.” Of course, approaches in this vary from one another and should be adapted to cultural difference.
Finally, it will be interesting to look further at how the leadership in a tribe changes when some individuals change (behavior or position).
By Cheng-Feng, Chung 鍾正峰
 Review of Tribes