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LEADERSHIP Building Beneficial Social Networks By George Mbithi T ry to talk with leaders and managers about whether the relationships they have are important for their job. They most likely will look at you as if you asked whether air to breathe is important for human beings. However, if you ask them about social networks, one of two things are likely to happen. Either they will think you are asking them about the social media strategy that their organization has, or they will think that you are asking about whether they use Facebook or LinkedIn! In other words, a common preconception these days is that when we hear social networks, we immediately think of social networking tools, like LinkedIn and Facebook. Even though these tools can be very useful to manage a leader’s network, the term social networks is used to refer to the set of real-world relationships that professionals meaning that leaders rely on those have, and how they come into play in their relationships with others for them to actually make those inputs. That is why day-to-day work life. social networks are so important for all As a professional, did you know that you leaders, because they have to tap into those have the opportunity to systematically and resources of others. deliberately create sets of relationships with you or with your followers, your peers, Now, the first step to being mindful about your professional networks is actually subordinates, and your stakeholders? to have a better understanding of what One reason to be mindful about managing networks are like. your social networks is that we all rely on inputs from others, and that is why we rely Composition Of Networks on relationships. The sets of professional relationships that we have are a form of Networks are composed of nodes, the capital that we use. This capital is different people in your network. You need to think from financial capital, the money that you about what these nodes are like. Are your have in your pocket or intellectual capital, entire contexts the same? Do they have the the brainpower that you have between same sort of knowledge, the same sort of your ears; it is a form of social capital. access to resources, or are they diverse? This knowledge helps you to tackle different One thing that needs no debate is that problems, because you can get input from leaders depend on input from others, people with different views, different resources that they can bring to the table. One reason to be mindful about managing your social networks is that we all rely on inputs from others, and that is why we rely on relationships. The sets of professional relationships that we have are a form of capital that we use. This capital is dif ferent from financial capital, the money that you have in your pocket or intellectual capital, the brainpower that you have between your ears; it is a form of social capital. 76 MAL25/18 ISSUE The second element in a network you want to understand is the ties, the kind of relationships that you have. These include the “Content” and the “Quality” of a tie. The Content or type of relationship would include things like friendship, advice, communication, etc.; while the Quality of tie includes how nodes are connected - positive/negative, strong or weak, reciprocal or non-reciprocal, simple or multiplex (co- workers + drinking buddies) connections. The last element is the structure of the