What is the Magic of Network for Leaders?

Stacey Ashley Blog

What is the Magic of Network for Leaders?

Recent conversations with my Leadership Coaching clients have revealed a consistent theme, as well as being tired and losing motivation as the year draws to a close, they are concerned about the loss of connection they are feeling with their teams and within their teams.

This is consistent with employee engagement data from Linkedin’s Glint Platform in August which reveals 31% of employees feel less connected to their leaders than prior to the pandemic, and 37% of employees feel less connected to their teammates. The good news is that many people have reported feeling more connected to family as a result of working from home more often.

You know that connection is important. In work terms, people who feel more connected tend to be more engaged, and higher performing. Research conducted by iOpener Institute since 2005, shows that those people who have strong connections both within and outside their organisations have a more positive mindset and are more engaged at work. This leads to higher levels of productivity and performance.

These people typically:

  • Receive better feedback
  • Are promoted to senior ranks sooner
  • Get higher pay
  • Are more liked by peers
  • Solve problems, more creatively

After a challenging year, as we go into the holiday period, it is a prime time to reflect on the year that has been, and what will be important to set yourself up for an effective and successful 2021. Part of this is making sure that you have the right connections and support structure around you. The network which can help you make progress.


Networking is a lot like nutrition and fitness:we know what to do, the hard part is making it a top priority.

Herminia Ibarra, Charles Handy Professor of Organizational Behavior at London Business School


So how do you do that?

Evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar has shown that we (humans) tend to build social connections in similar ways, creating a very close layer of connection of about 5 people, our close and useful connections, typically 15 people, and our broader network of roughly 150 people. This is how we connect and interact most effectively as humans. (Thanks Jane Anderson for introducing me to Dunbar’s numbers.)

The first step towards creating your support network ready for 2021 is to identify who should be in it.

I have adapted Dunbar’s concepts here to identify the 15 types of connections you might consider in your network.

15 Key Relationships - What is the Magic of Network for Leaders

From here you can brainstorm a list of the 15 key people, and 150 people who should be part of your broader network. Don’t worry if you can’t come up with the whole list immediately. You might work on this list over time, identifying more key connections. This is something to reflect on.

For some people, you may have a greater number of people. Consider the effort this takes you to maintain. You might choose to loosen ties with some connections who are not the right fit for you right now.

Once you have identified your important people, consider the current state of each relationship.

Here are some questions to prompt your network reflection:

  • How is it supporting you?
  • What, if anything, needs to change?
  • How much contact do you need?
  • What sort of interaction works best?
  • How can you contribute to the relationship to make it effective?
  • How will you maintain your network of support?


Which part of your network needs your attention?


I’d love to know your thoughts.

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AND: Whenever you’re ready… here are 4 ways I can help you grow your coaching and leadership: