Informal & Formal Networks

A strong social support system is essential to a leader and critical to those leaders who are bringing an unusual orientation to their organisations. At a minimum, leaders need more than 5 people in the workplace who belong in their social network.

To assist leaders in ensuring their network is strong they can begin by identifying at least one person who plays the following roles in their network. For any roles where they do not currently have someone, they are asked to take steps to build this support.


Social Network Role
Support Provided
Name One Person Who Plays This Role For You
Emotional support This is someone who listens, who is a sounding board, someone with whom you feel accepted.
Social connection This is someone who makes you feel like you fit in.
Reassurance of self-worth This is someone who builds up your confidence.
Reliable support This is someone who you can rely on.
Advice and information This is someone who provides reliable input
Physical assistance This is someone who can help to do the task.
Material assistance This is someone who can give you something.
Over the past few years, many people have analysed the patterns of informal connection among people, particularly in such measurable forms as phone and e-mail contact. As network researcher Karen Stephenson has found, key people in an organization fulfil one of three roles that pop up again and again:

  • Hubs: people who regularly communicate with a lot of other people, and thus act as central nodes for the flow of information.
  • Gatekeepers: people who provide the only links into a subsection of the organization or a body of knowledge, and thus control access to that domain.
  • Pulse takers: people who are relied upon for their perspective, and thus maintain connections to a significant and select group of others.

Major improvements in an organization’s effectiveness can be achieved by aligning and moving people in ways that shift these three important roles. The more effective such channels are, the more people learn how to operate with excellence, how to advance in the company, and how to build their mutual expertise. If you want to make an organization more proficient, start by improving the network.

Finally, the Age of Heretics by Art Kleiner outlines how to improve communication and information flow in organizations through four communication channels which exist in every organization.

Caribbean Leadership Project
Cave Hill School of Business
University of the West Indies
Cave Hill Campus
P.O. Box 64, Bridgetown, BB11000, Barbados
+1 246 417 3152