One of the key similarities between social network theory and leader-member exchange theory is that both of these leadership models are anchored or derive their leadership techniques on relationships and networks (Helen, 2015). For instance, social network theory explains how individuals, groups, or organizations interact with others within their network. In this case, the networks can be neighborhoods because, in each of these networks, there must be key actors and how these actors relate with each other. In the case of neighborhoods, the relationship between the actors are actively driven by companies, organizations, and individuals; collectively referred to as nodes. These actors are the basic units of the network's key to driving the relationships.
On the other hand, the relationships or networks in the leader-member exchange theory of leadership is seen in almost all of the model's phases. For example, in the "assimilation" phase of leader-member exchange theory, members or subordinates of organizations seek to establish a strong relationship or network with their leaders through their incorporation of leaders into their networks. Importantly, by incorporating leaders into their networks, the members seek to strengthen the leader-member relationship. This is aimed at making the leaders benefit from the social resources and relationships that can be obtained from members' networks (Bauer & Erdogan, 2015).
Another similarity between social network theory and leader-member exchange theory is that both of these leadership models emphasizes the existence of different types of relationships or networks within the organization. For instance, the social network theory explains that three types of social networks arise because of interactions within an organization: open systems networks, socio-centric networks, and ego-centric networks (Jensen, Craig, Pooley, & Rothenbuhler, 2016; Kerry, Pionke, & Dent, 2018; Slee, 2016). In open-sentence networks, the boundary lines are not well-defined. An example is the absence of clearly-established boundaries between corporations. Because of the absence of clearly-defined boundaries, open-systems networks has been reported to be the most difficult to study. On the other hand, socio-centric networks are closed networks in some way. Example of such closed networks include employees inside a company or students in a class. Lastly, ego-centric networks have been described as those connected through a single node, such as one individual and his or her good school friends (Slee, 2016).
Similarly, in leader-member exchange theory, the leader established two types of relationships based on a relationship with subordinates. One of these relationships is what is known as in-group, comprising of subordinates favored by the leader (Glendon, Clarke, & McKenna, 2016). The opposite is comprised of subordinates who are disfavored by the leader, the out-group (Conte & Landy, 2018).
Differences between Social Network and Leader-Member Exchange Theory
Despite the similarities discussed above, the social network theory and leader-member exchange theory have also been found to have differences. One of these differences is that while the leader-member exchange theory is focused on the formal relationships between the leaders and their followers (Claywell, 2019; The Pennsylvania State University, 2019), the social network theory is more inclined towards explaining how various actors related to each other in an extensive network. That is, the primary focus of leader-member exchange theory is on the dyadic relationship established between the leader and their followers. This relationship is anchored on mutual obligation, trust, and respect (Lehto & Neittaanmaki, 2018; Truxillo, Bauer, & Erdogan, 2015).
Integration of Social Network and Leader-Member Exchange Theory into my unified leadership theory
In my future public health leadership role, I hope to integrate both the social network theory and the leader-member exchange theory into a unified leadership theory by picking the elements of both theories that are useful in enhancing employee performance. First, I will strive to ensure that I establish a strong and a working relationship with my subordinates by identifying the outgroup and finding out the reasons why they have fallen "out of favor." This is key to ensuring that I win back their trust and re-establish a formidable and a working relationship necessary to achieve organizational objectives and goals. Secondly, using the social network theory, I hope to work towards establishing an ego-centric system networks in the organization that I will be leading. This is because the ego-centric network allows for nurturing of a close relationship among the member of the organization.
Application of the Unified Theory to a Public Health Scenario
An example of a public health scenario in which the unified theory can be used is a disease outbreak, such as a cholera outbreak. In such a case, there is a need for a concerted effort aimed at ensuring that all public health professionals such as community health workers, nurses, laboratory scientist, nurses, and pharmacists work together towards eradicating the disease. As a public health leader in such a scenario, I hope to establish a strong and a working relationship with all these professionals by, firstly, identifying the outgroup and seeking to make them part of the in-group. Lastly, I hope to establish a working environment characterized by the close working relationship among all the professionals.
Bauer, T. N., & Erdogan, B. (2015). The oxford handbook of leader-member exchange. Oxford, OX: Oxford University Press.
Claywell, C. (2019). What is social network theory? Retrieved from https://socialnetworking.lovetoknow.com/What_is_Social_Network_Theory
Conte, J. M., & Landy, F. J. (2018). Work in the 21st century: an introduction to industrial and organizational psychology. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Glendon, A. I., Clarke, S., & McKenna, E. (2016). Human safety and risk management. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
Helen, A.-W. (2015). Transforming the future of learning with educational research. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
Jensen, K. B., Craig, R. T., Pooley, J. D., & Rothenbuhler, E. W. (2016). The international encyclopedia of communication theory and philosophy, 4 volume set. Burlington, MA: John Wiley & Sons.
Kerry, P. E., Pionke, A. D., & Dent, M. (2018). Thomas Carlyle and the idea of influence. Rowman & Littlefield.
Lehto, M., & Neittaanmaki, P. (2018). Cyber security: power and technology. New York, NY: Springer Publishing.
Slee, P. (2016). School Bullying: Teachers helping students cope. Abingdon, UK: Taylor & Francis.
The Pennyslyvania State University. (2019). LMX and social network analysis. Retrieved from https://sites.psu.edu/leadership/2013/06/23/lmx-and-social-network-analysis/
Truxillo, D. M., Bauer, T. N., & Erdogan, B. (2015). Psychology and work: perspectives on industrial and organizational psychology. Abingdon, UK: Routledge Publishing.
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