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Juliette Phillipson - 2024

Networking in a leadership context is about building and nurturing relationships that can bring mutual benefits. Creating a fabric of personal contacts who will provide support, feedback, insight, resources, and information is crucial for both personal advancement and organisational success. Networking helps leaders gain critical insights and support needed to thrive in broader roles.

In a 2007 article published in the Harvard Business Review, Herminia Ibarra and Mark Lee Hunter discuss the importance of networking for successful leadership (Ibarra & Hunter, 2007). Through observation of a cohort of 30 managers progressing through a “leadership transition”, they discovered three distinct but interdependent forms of networking:

  • Operational Networking: Involves building relationships necessary to fulfill current roles e.g. with superiors, peers, multidisciplinary colleagues. It focuses on direct interactions within the organisation to help you manage current internal responsibilities.

  • Personal Networking: Refers to connections with peers outside the organisation e.g. through clubs, professional groups, and other networks. These relationships support personal development and provide new perspectives.

  • Strategic Networking: Is made up of relationships that help to gather information and resources you need to develop and achieve personal and organisational goals. A good strategic network can harness information, support, and resources from one part of a network to achieve results in another.

Successful leaders integrate all three networking forms to transition effectively from operational roles to strategic leadership positions. While operational and personal networking are more commonly used, strategic networking is often underutilised but is crucial for long-term success.

In healthcare especially, networking is crucial due to the hierarchical nature of the industry and the need for collaboration among professionals from various disciplines and managerial levels. Although networking can be intimidating and often involves stepping out of one's comfort zone, it is an essential skill for effective leadership. Therefore, it should be developed with deliberate and strategic focus.

How to develop networks?

Developing networking skills is a critical part of leadership development. Organisations can support this growth by providing opportunities and frameworks that encourage building and maintaining diverse networks. The best place to start is often by investing in new activities, because the best way to grow professional relationships is by actually doing things together such as projects or tasks within your organisation or some kind of extracurricular activity (Ibarra, 2017). While it may seem like networking requires relentless participation in social events, Cecchi-Dimeglio emphasises that the quality and composition of your network is far more important than the quantity (Cecchi-Dimeglio, 2023).

Our leadership development programmes provide an opportunity for networking with fellow aspiring leaders from multidisciplinary backgrounds. Additionally, QI projects provide a framework for networking with stakeholders and other staff. Programme evaluation has highlighted to us that this is a valued feature of our leadership programmes.


Cecchi-Dimeglio, P. (2023).  How Leaders Strategically Enhance Their Networks For Maximum Impact. Forbes.

Ibarra, H., & Hunter, M.  L. (2007). How Leaders Create and Use Networks. Harvard Business Review.

Ibarra, H. (2017). Why  strategic networks are important for women and how to build them. EVE  Webmagazine.

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