Contemporary definitions of leadership advance a view of the phenomenon as relational, situated in specific social contexts, involving patterned emergent processes, and encompassing both formal and informal influence. Paralleling these views is a growing interest in leveraging social network approaches to study leadership. Social network approaches provide a set of theories and methods with which to articulate and investigate, with greater precision and rigor, the wide variety of relational perspectives implied by contemporary leadership theories. Our goal is to advance this domain through an integrative conceptual review. We begin by answering the question of why–Why adopt a network approach to study leadership? Then, we offer a framework for organizing prior research. Our review reveals 3 areas of research, which we term: (a) leadership in networks, (b) leadership as networks, and (c) leadership in and as networks. By clarifying the conceptual underpinnings, key findings, and themes within each area, this review serves as a foundation for future inquiry that capitalizes on, and programmatically builds upon, the insights of prior work. Our final contribution is to advance an agenda for future research that harnesses the confluent ideas at the intersection of leadership in and as networks. Leadership in and as networks represents a paradigm shift in leadership research–from an emphasis on the static traits and behaviors of formal leaders whose actions are contingent upon situational constraints, toward an emphasis on the complex and patterned relational processes that interact with the embedding social context to jointly constitute leadership emergence and effectiveness.
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