Lonely at the top? How organizational position shapes the developmental networks of top executives
Yip, Kong Loong Jeffrey
MetadataShow full item record
Status and organizational position are defining cues that shape how people interact in organizations. For executives, their position in the organization can be a double-edged sword of increased influence, but also of perceived isolation from others. Hence, the longstanding concern of leaders being "lonely at the top." To examine this further, I focus on the leader's developmental network - the constellation of relationships that provide the leader with career and psychosocial support. Extending status characteristics theory, I examine how a leader's organizational position shapes the dynamics of social support, represented by the leader's developmental network. Three independent sources of data were collected: a developmental network survey of top executives (n=227), a multisource survey of the executive's co-workers (n=1008), and performance ratings obtained from the executive's superiors (n=521). Contrary to assumptions of leaders being "lonely at the top", the findings reveal a positive relationship between a leader's organizational position and the strength of the leader's developmental network. This relationship is explained by two distinct mediating mechanisms: (1) a process of social influence, where a leader's position predicts co-worker perceptions of the leader's dominance, and consequently, greater career support; and (2) a process of social connection, where the leader's position predicts co-worker perceptions of the leader's warmth, and consequently, psychosocial support. I discuss the implications of these findings for strengthening developmental networks in organizations and for research on leadership and positive work relationships.