Well-Connected Leaders: Who Cares?

Networking enhances a leader’s ability to access information and resources through their upward and lateral connections. Networking also affects how leaders are perceived by others at work. Well-connected leaders can be seen by others as having higher status in the organization than those that don’t network well with their peers and bosses.

How important is it for leaders to be seen by their constituents as well-connected? Does a leader’s perceived status in the network matter less to some followers than others?

A recent study of 42 managers and their 184 employees in the banking industry entitled “Well-Connected Leaders: The Impact of Leader’s Social Network Ties on LMX and Members’ Work Attitudes” recently published in the Journal of Applied Psychology sought to answer these questions. They found that well-connected leaders were indeed more likely to be seen has having high status in the workplace. This perception of status enhanced the leader’s ability to form relationships with their employees, and those high quality relationships were in-turn related to higher job satisfaction and lower turnover intentions for the employees. The authors conclude that “managers would be well served to not only actively engage in networking but to also publicize these connections to create favorable impressions in the minds of members” (p. 1081).

But well-connected leaders did not matter as much for some employees. Employees that were themselves well-connected and sought out by coworkers for advice on work matters and to discuss problems and solutions were less likely to be influenced by well-connected leaders. In order to form high quality relationships with your well-connected followers, other characteristics like competence and trustworthiness are likely more important than your perceived status.

This study once again confirmed something many of us believe about leadership – relationships matter. As a leader, you need to recognize that just because you might be motivated to have good relationships with your followers does not mean they will be equally motivated to reciprocate. You have to give your followers good reasons to like you, and this study suggests that being well-connected at work is something that matters to most of your followers.

If you are well-connected leader or follower, people will be motivated to have a good relationship with you. Use your connections to provide your employees or peers the resources and information they need to do their jobs well and you will earn their approval and commitment.

Bret L. Simmons, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Management at The University of Nevada, Reno. He earned his doctorate in Business Administration at Oklahoma State University. Bret blogs about leadership and social business at his website Positive Organizational Behavior. You can also find him on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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About the author

David Burkus is an organizational psychologist, keynote speaker, and bestselling author of five books on leadership and teamwork.

3 thoughts on “Well-Connected Leaders: Who Cares?”

  1. Thanks for the post Bret. I wonder too if the necessity to navigate internal social networks will increase as companies become increasingly global or spread across vast geographies. It’s a lot harder to use the “I’m the boss card, now do it” in an organization that spans the globe.

  2. Sorry for the slow reply, Tim. There is no arguing with the evidence, being socially aware and savvy will help your career. Organizations are probably no more complex than they were 10 years ago, but I would argue social connections are. Thanks! Bret

  3. Thanks for raising this topic Bret. Being connected definitely makes a difference not only in perception but in our ability to cause needed change. As you point out though the quality of those connections matters. People recognize “politically” motivated surface level connections a mile away. More and more authenticity matters. And I think that’s a good thing!

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