Answering the question ‘Why is networking important?’ is challenging for leaders. Busy executive leaders benefit from what researchers from the Center for Creative Leadership call network perspective, or the “dynamic web of connections that have an impact on their work, their leadership, and the leadership culture of their organization.” And having a range of connections across industries and locations improves leaders’ decision-making abilities, broadens their horizons, and strengthens their sense of self-awareness — all crucial components for success across sectors. However, according to the center’s related white paper, senior managers and C-Suite executives often ignore networking opportunities and may not prioritize networking outside their immediate spheres, missing out on crucial opportunities, insights, and support.
The issue may be that prioritizing networking on a broad scale is difficult. The busier the executive, the harder it becomes to step out of one’s sphere to network with peers in other industries or parts of the world. Enrolling in an advanced management program online is the solution. Leadership development pathways such as Columbia Business School Executive Education‘s Advanced Management Program help business leaders step out of their silos and make strong connections with other executives across the globe.
There are no participant requirements related to location or industry, and each participant’s unique perspective enriches the Advanced Management program experience. Faculty director Paul Ingram notes that the school has thoughtfully constructed a strong community around its global leadership development program. “You will build relationships with other global business leaders who become life-long friends and advisors to your business and career,” Ingram said. “The program has the potential to be truly life-changing.”
Why Is Networking Important for Leaders?
As Export Development Canada CEO and Columbia Advanced Management Program participant Mairead Lavery said, “being CEO or in a senior executive role can be pretty lonely.” This is especially true if you are the connection between board members or stockholders and mid-level management. There may not be anyone in your workplace who shares your specific concerns and responsibilities. At the same time, you may be worried about sharing professional challenges with your peers in a competitive market. That’s why it’s helpful for leaders to look outside of their industries. Every professional relationship you develop is a potential learning experience.
Building a broader network by enrolling in an advanced management program online can help you meet your leadership development goals in several ways and significantly improve your ability to do the job you already have. A network of peers with varied cultural, career, and personal backgrounds can help you stay on top of trends that may affect your industry, identify new avenues of corporate strategy, increase your influence in different sectors, expand your access to potential hires, and discover new opportunities for entrepreneurship and innovation.
Remote networking skills are also increasingly necessary at all levels — especially as crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic worsen professional isolation. In a 2022 McKinsey survey on workers’ internal and external networks, only 24 percent of 5,500 respondents said they were getting in touch with old contacts within their professional networks, and just 28 percent said they were focused on building new relationships. Leaders reported putting in slightly more effort than their reports, but only half said they were networking to develop new relationships. This is concerning, given that the importance of social capital doesn’t lessen as you move up the chain of command.
How Can Networking Across Industries and Locations Help You Meet Your Leadership Development Goals?
You Gain New Insight from Outside Connections
Some challenges are universal. Networking offers leaders new angles from which to consider issues that translate across industries. For example, senior leaders in every field face similar hurdles in digital transformation as they consider how to take advantage of evolving technology such as artificial intelligence, manage hybrid workplaces, and facilitate remote collaboration. Business leaders can learn from how their peers tackle leadership challenges like technology change management, regardless of industry.
Advanced Management Program participant Mattieu Chabanne works in finance and banking, but when a fellow Advanced Management Program participant in the aviation sector sought help from the group about a problem her company was having with ticket margin compression, he realized the conversation was relevant to his work. “I’m currently managing a group of salespeople. They talk to clients every day, and I see the margin compression, just as the airline company executive noticed,” he said. “There were similarities in how we could tackle this issue even though we worked in different industries.”
If you have spent a lot of time in your current industry or workplace, making connections outside your silo can feel daunting. Exposure is a significant advantage of enrolling in an advanced management program online. As a participant in Columbia’s Advanced Management Program, you’ll learn alongside professionals from industries such as accounting, finance, consulting, education, energy, transportation, healthcare, and technology.
You Avoid Falling Prey to Groupthink
Groupthink is a detriment to competitive strategy. You can’t outperform the competition if you’re operating the same way they are, and you can’t grow without innovation. Growing a diverse network can spark new ideas.
Showing that you’re not afraid to consult with others also sets an excellent example for your team. The effects of groupthink can affect the creative potential of an entire organization. When groupthink limits creativity, “the result is an environment where perspectives aren’t challenged,” according to the Forbes Coaches Council. “Some employees may even feel uncomfortable offering thoughts outside ‘the norm,’ and over time, products or services may weaken with the narrowed thinking that groupthink creates.”
Participant Mairead Lavery said that sharing business challenges and progress with participants from different professional, economic, social, and educational backgrounds was an invaluable part of the Advanced Management Program. “It’s a kaleidoscope of varied perspectives,” she said, “and that’s what other people bring to the table.”
You Learn to Build More Diverse Teams
The more diverse your network, the more opportunity you create to hire diverse team members and integrate new ideas. Substantial research over the years has illuminated the positive effects of diversity in the workplace. Research shows that diverse teams “develop more expansive problem-solving capabilities” by sharing varied outlooks and experiences. People from different backgrounds look at a single problem and see myriad solutions. This can result in better financial performance but more importantly, promoting equity in the workplace is the right thing to do.
Another benefit of enrolling in an advanced management program online is that you can interface with participants from around the world. In Columbia Business School Executive Education’s Advanced Management Program, 32 percent of participants are from North America, while 27 percent come from Asia, 12 percent from Europe, 12 percent from Oceania, 10 percent from Africa and the Middle East, and 7 percent from South America.
“I feel like a more global, diverse leader,” said Advanced Management Program participant Guliz Ozturk, who is from Turkey, about her experience in the program. “My colleagues represented 25 countries, from New Zealand to the U.S., Sri Lanka to Japan… It was really valuable to learn about other industries in the context of different cultures.”
You Gain Influence in Other Industries
The importance of networking isn’t limited to your own professional development. Organizations value leaders who make connections that benefit the business and, as a consequence, can more easily attract new talent and investors, positively impact the company’s market value, and retain high-performing employees. Being an effective leader often means developing and leveraging relationships that help your organization and pursuing referrals and outside partnerships when necessary. These relationships can include not just stakeholders but also politicians, recruiters, suppliers, and members of the media.
Your Perspective Expands Beyond Your Sector
Networking helps you see from new perspectives, making you a better listener while exposing you to new ideas and giving you an array of new skills. Columbia School of Business Executive Education Advanced Management Program faculty member Adam Galinsky has more than 20 years of experience researching management and social psychology. One leadership skill he’s written about is perspective-taking, or the ability to see the world from another person’s point of view.
Galinsky warns that leaders often neglect this skill because it becomes less necessary to empathize with others as they become more powerful. But the ability to think and see from another person’s perspective — a skill bolstered by good relationships — is a competitive advantage. Perspective-taking is helpful because it makes you a better negotiator — when you understand what someone wants, you become much better at making deals and resolving conflicts.
You Gain Opportunities for Collaboration
Collaboration is essential to professional success. Cultivating a global network that’s collaborative opens up opportunities for innovation because it can double or triple the years of work experience going into new projects. You can develop these resources through professional networks by finding out which vendors have worked for your peers. Columbia Advanced Management Program Senior Lecturer Dr. William Duggan, whose research focus is innovation and strategy in business, has found that learning about other professionals’ past work experiences is critical to innovation.
The structure of the Advanced Management Program by Columbia Business School Executive Education encourages participants to innovate collaboratively through online exercises interspersed with team-building activities. During the five-day New York City immersion, participants solve real-world business problems in sessions such as “leadership jazz,” in which executives learn to improvise and collaborate on the spot with the resources at hand, much like jazz musicians. In another exercise, attendees observe customer service practices in Fifth Avenue shops to better understand how to improve the quality of their professional interactions. These exercises emphasize teamwork, employee engagement, and soft skills such as communication and active listening.
Advanced Network-Building Techniques for Leaders
Take Advantage of Professional Events and Associations
Research shows that group associations result in stronger bonds. Spending meaningful time with peers by joining professional associations can help you cultivate lasting relationships. Professional events such as conferences and seminars offer opportunities to speak publicly, learn about the latest published research and internal communications, and win accolades.
Become a Mentor or Mentee
In his research on leadership, Adam Galinsky established three core components of inspirational leadership. One of them is “being a great mentor.” Mentorship, he says, balances power dynamics in business environments. “The Advanced Management Program is for high-power leaders,” Galinsky said. “I want them to understand how to create an environment to increase the probability that low-power employees feel comfortable speaking up.”
Good leaders know when to ask for guidance. Seeking out a mentor in a different geographical area or industry can help you understand the challenges consumers face globally. For instance, you may learn from a mentor how previous supply chain shortages have impacted industries in the past. A mentor in another country can enlighten you on cultural expectations, organizational behavior, and business opportunities outside your geographic scope. The duration and reach of the Advanced Management Program provide opportunities to build relationships with global business leaders who can transform into trusted advisors.
Work with an Executive Coach
An executive coach can support your networking efforts by helping you make the right senior-level connections. Leadership coaching also helps you become more strategic and less off-the-cuff in your approach to network-building. Advanced Management Program online participants benefit from a 360-degree wraparound executive coaching process. The leadership program incorporates a feedback survey, which collects anonymous and confidential feedback about participants from their colleagues and supervisors. Executive coaches use this feedback to help participants recognize their leadership styles and cultivate inherent leadership qualities. Participants work one-on-one with an executive coach to set goals that are measurable and achievable in the long and short terms.
Pursue Professional Development Geared Toward Executives
To reach your leadership development goals, look for growth opportunities tailored explicitly to executives rather than general business professionals. Executive professional development opportunities bring high-performing leaders together in a neutral environment. They offer space to brainstorm, share experiences, and participate in healthy competition.
Executive education programs like Columbia Business School Executive Education’s Advanced Management Program also challenge participants to look inward at their strengths and weaknesses. Expert faculty in the Advanced Management Program do not rehash general management concepts. They guide participants through the program’s five modules, progressing from strategic leadership to personal leadership to interpersonal leadership. In the final module, “Heart of Leadership,” participants use what they’ve learned throughout the program to complete a transformational project based on a real-world case study. They also create an action plan to address current challenges in their organizations so participants see an immediate impact of the program in their workplaces.
How Columbia’s Advanced Management Program Helps You Build a Broader Professional Network
Columbia Business School Executive Education Advanced Management Program participant Mairead Lavery — the same person who said being a CEO can be “lonely” — called the networking aspect of the program essential. Otherwise, she asked, “how do you talk to peers who you might be competing against? The Advanced Management Program was this safe space to explore and bring your thinking up to date.”
As a participant in the Advanced Management Program, you will work with a diverse group of executives from all over the world while you learn together and then gain access to a world-class alumni network. Through Columbia Business School’s Alumni Career Services, you can add your resume and profile to an elite searchable database used by top recruiting organizations. Events and programs also provide opportunities to forge new connections with more than 47,000 alumni working in myriad industries around the world.
Ultimately, networking is vital to career success at all levels. Significant research backs up its efficacy, including longitudinal studies showing that networking contributes to differential salary growth over time. In other words, networking is an investment in your present and future. Enrolling in the Columbia Business School Executive Education’s Advanced Management Program can help you reach the next level of impact through the exploration of new ideas, perspectives, experiences, and realities. The ideal candidate, according to participant Juan Carlos Gaona is “here to accomplish much more than just being better at what they do professionally.”
Connect with an enrollment advisor or start your application today.