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As a manager at a workplace, it is imperative to do everything possible to improve as a leader. One of the most important strategies to enhance leadership skills is networking. By making and maintaining contacts a leader forges a cohesive unit and creates vital contacts outside the normal spheres of their job.

All networks are not the same. There are three different types of networks a leader should seek to create. One is an operational network, which links the individuals and contacts necessary for maintaining day-to-day functioning in the workplace. This is the most basic type of network and is essential for basic operations to work smoothly.

Successful leaders move beyond mere operational networks to create personal networks. These extend beyond the workplace, and provide the support and mentoring that allow leaders to grow as individuals.

The third type of network is a strategic network, which is a type of operational network that extends far beyond the halls of the workplace. It is comprised of the external contacts and resources that lead to new opportunities for a business.

Forging these types of networks is hugely important for a leader and brings many crucial benefits. Connections are vital to the production of new ideas and the opening of exciting new opportunities. Constant communication allows leaders to identify trends in the workplace early on and address them immediately. It also leads to a wider range of contacts, which in turn allows for a diversification in stakeholders in a company.

Internal and external networking is also a major driver of innovation. By speaking regularly with people from various networks, a leader hears countless new ideas on a wide range of topics. This results in a diversity of opinion that inhibits groupthink and stagnation. The people in a leader’s network will provide a mix of experience and new ideas, allowing the leader to draw from various perspectives before making big decisions.

Leadership is difficult, but it can be made easier with effective networking. Increasing contacts inside and outside the workplace is the most effective method for improving decision-making and leadership qualities. It may sound corny, but it’s true: two heads are better than one. And a network of heads is even better.