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“Network-Based Leadership Development” by Cullen-Lester Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Jun 1st, 2022

The Research Question/Objectives

In the study, the authors address the issue of social capital, networks, and networking skills. As the authors state, management education frequently overlooks the impact of gender on the individual’s ability to use and build networks (Cullen-Lester, Woehler, and Willburn, 2016). In this paper, the authors aim to present a framework that will help management educators examine misconceptions about networks, teach others how to understand if a network is working effectively, and recognise networking strategies that will have a positive impact on a network’s effectiveness (Cullen-Lester et al., 2016). The authors cite major misconceptions about networking, e.g. ‘networking is sleazy’, ‘there is no time for networking’, ‘bigger networkings are better than smaller ones’, etc. (Cullen-Lester et al., 2016). To prove that such misconceptions cannot be applicable to networks, the authors provide various concepts and theories that existing networks are effective tools that can benefit employees and their companies. Although the authors state that their paper also focuses on gender differences and their impact on networking systems, they address the gender problem almost separately from the research. Thus, it seems that the authors’ initial aim was to help management educators understand the importance of networks. The Gender issue, that is marked as the keyword of the paper, is mentioned at the end of the objectives. That is why it is unclear for the reader whether the authors focused on the gender problems as extensively as they examined the networking strategies or regarded the gender problems as a subsidiary issue to the main question of the paper.

Main Concepts

The authors provide several concepts that help the readers understand how networks function and what benefits they are able to provide to their users. The authors stress the importance of open and diverse networks that bring the users valuable and rare information (Cullen-Lester et al., 2016). Moreover, open networks also allow users to seek information in such resources that are not available to others. However, the authors notice that women usually have limited possibilities in such networks due to gender stereotypes.

The authors do not provide an opposite opinion on the networks. Instead, they stress their effectiveness and usefulness; however, other researchers have stated that development of networks can have an adverse impact on the individuals’ morality and feelings (Casciaro, Gino, & Kouchaki, 2014). It was also left unmentioned that the networks could affect employees negatively because they depend on some of the contacts more than on others (Bizzi, 2016). Thus, networks do not always make the individual’s performance more effective.

Another concept the authors present in the article is the balance between relationships at work and acquaintances, according to which, women have fewer multiplex relationships than men due to various factors that do not allow them to build complex and diverse networks, i.e. women’s relationships are divided into work or friendship-based ones (Cullen-Lester et al., 2016). At last, the authors consider effective networking strategies (Porter & Woo, 2015). The appropriate strategies the authors have identified will be described as the main findings of the article.

The Method

To write recommendations, the authors drew on the literature dedicated to network-based leadership; they also stated that the literature had not paid much attention to the transition of relationships in networks (Cullen-Lester et al., 2016). After the literature review, the authors created a list of strategies that was formatted into an online survey and sent to the ‘Center for Creative Leadership’s Leading Insights Panel’. All participants who volunteered to take part in the research were asked what strategies from the list they used and how effective they were (Cullen-Lester et al., 2016). The authors calculated the percentage of participants who used each strategy, the percentage of male and female participants who used the strategies, and the percentage of participants who found a strategy they had used effective (Cullen-Lester et al., 2016). The use of various networking strategies was also marked as effective in other researches that examined the impact of networking strategies on promising professionals in management (Cross & Thomas, 2008). The percentages calculated by the authors to understand what strategies were more effective than others were based on the participants’ responds (Cullen-Lester et al., 2016). As a result, five insights were presented in the paper.

The method used in the article can be considered effective, but it has its limitations. For example, the sampling frame is too small (131 men and 131 women) to draw conclusions on the matter. Moreover, the authors have used an online survey to receive the data, but interviews could reflect the effectiveness of strategies for both genders better.

The Main Findings

The five key insights the authors present in the paper are the following: transitioning of relationships is a necessary skill, but there are not enough strategies for it; strategies used by individuals helped them improve their job performance; maintaining strategies improved individuals’ strategic influence; building strategies does not help build deep relationships; men and women used the strategies slightly differently (Eagly & Sczesny, 2009). The authors’ aim was to show not only the importance of strategies per se but also the challenges women have to face when working in and with such networks. While the strategies presented by the authors are helpful to management educators who will teach employees how to use and build the networks, the insights have shown that gender biases have not been completely erased from the networks.

The authors should have presented the gender problems and women’s challenges in more detail to explain to the readers how exactly the gender differences impact female employees; for example, they could have mentioned that the business structure itself provides better opportunities for men than for women (Thébaud, 2015). A deeper look into the gender differences would significantly clarify the authors’ view of the problem.


As the authors state in the paper, the results of the research have shown that educating individuals about the importance of networks and networking strategies helps the employees improve their work performance. It is yet not clear whether these strategies also have an impact on the achievement of career goals (Ingram & Torfason, 2010). Moreover, although the authors have stated that women indeed have certain challenges compared to men in building diverse networks, future research is needed to state clearly how gender differences influence building and expanding of individuals’ networks.


Although the paper provides detailed and profound research of networks and their impact on the performance of workers, as well as presenting various strategies for management educators, the gender differences and issues linked to them are not covered completely; the authors should have provided a clearer relation between the gender problems and effectiveness of networks.


Bizzi, L. (2016). Network characteristics: When an individual’s job crafting depends on the jobs of others. Human Relations, 25(2), 112-130.

Casciaro, T., Gino, F., & Kouchaki, M. (2014). The contaminating effects of building instrumental ties: How networking can make us feel dirty. Administrative Science Quarterly, 59(4), 705-735.

Cross, R., & Thomas, R. J. (2008). How top talent uses networks and where rising stars get trapped. Organizational Dynamics, 37(2), 165-180.

Cullen-Lester, K. L., Woehler, M. L., & Willburn, P. (2016). Network-based leadership development: A guiding framework and resources for management educators. Journal of Management Education, 40(3), 321-358.

Eagly, A. H., & Sczesny, S. (2009). Stereotypes about women, men, and leaders: Have times changed? Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Ingram, P., & Torfason, M. (2010). Organizing the in-between: The population dynamics of network-weaving organizations in the global interstate network. Administrative Science Quarterly, 55(4), 577-605.

Porter, C. M., & Woo, S. E. (2015). Untangling the networking phenomenon: A dynamic psychological perspective on how and why people network. Journal of Management, 41(5), 1477-1500.

Thébaud, S. (2015). Business as plan B: Institutional foundations of gender inequality in entrepreneurship across 24 industrialized countries. Administrative Science Quarterly, 60(4), 671-711.

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