Build Social Capital Through Leadership Development


Consider a room full of light bulbs with the leader as the light bulb in the center. It doesn’t matter if the leader isn’t the brightest bulb in the room. What matters = Does the leader light up and energize others? Decision makers call this Social Capital. Transformational leaders don’t need to personally shine the brightest; transformational leaders consistently evolve organizations by lighting up others and by galvanizing the collective.

What is Social Capital?

Social capital is the professional relationship between networked individuals – strengthened from mutual trust and respect. Increase your social capital by fostering a formal and informal network of high-performing professionals. Leverage your growing network for mentors, sponsors, and inside intelligence. These relationships can provide an upwardly mobile, thoughtful leader access to opportunities that are otherwise invisible. Evaluating leadership from a network-aware perspective considers each individual’s ability to leverage collaboration through trust, respect, and integrity.

How do global organizational leaders plan to be successful?

Leaders carry out their work while dealing with ever-changing business issues, juggling conflicting priorities, multiple accountabilities, and matrix / ambiguous responsibilities. Social capital is a critical success factor for upwardly mobile executives.

When we begin to look at talent that is at the director level or above, evaluating ‘human capital’ expertise is not enough; it is not a reliable predictor of success. When it comes to the higher levels in the organization, we should evaluate leadership talent from a network-aware perspective. It’s incumbent on us to consider their social capital quotient. = What is their relative ability to mobilize the collaborative efforts of a network?

Social Capital in 3 Steps

Building meaningful network relationships requires a complex series of activities that each leader must undertake as an individual, no one can do this for you! Each activity is discreet but they build upon each other in a layered and complex manner.

Select 1 or 2 goals from each level of your connections to develop over the next 3-4 months. Once you have those network relationships humming, you can broaden out your network map plan. Start with your end state in mind.

Being the bright light in the room is part alchemy and part applied network science. Knowing how to build and leverage a network is a career-building skill set!

Executives that are aware of this framework, and have the ability to execute it, become highly valuable to their organizations. Having strong social capital is a competitive advantage in the boardroom, and at the senior table. Strong well-leveraged social relationship capital = you’re connected to key influencers + you have the ability to invoke them. Why should you care about your network strength? Having strong relationships translates into demonstrations of necessary / visible support at critical junctures, for you or your enterprise.

How Do I Build Social Capital?

3 key buckets of activities that collectively result in building social capital:

Building authentic relationships requires a firm foundation of strong peer relationships and an extraordinarily high-performing team. In the absence of these strengths, the ability to leverage your network enough to build adequate social capital is diffused. + Others may potentially interpret your under-performance as confusion about priorities!

The Social Capital Caveat:

The work of building solid relationships is not linear. Plan to develop your relationship capital by deliberately building a powerful set of professional business relationships. Select activities that support your intention to have a strong, valuable network. Leverage your relationships in the best interests of your organization. Make sure to spend your social capital wisely and respect the influential power it provides to you and your career.

~Dr. Gail Johnson Morris




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Understanding yours can and will impact how effective you are when dealing with friends, co-workers and clients.

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