Social architects are not noted for their extraordinary impact on organizations today. The origin of the social architect can be found in the intricacy of the social capital view. The social capital view is one of the many theoretical foundations that contribute to impacting the social environment within, among, and throughout stakeholder interaction. Indicative of this is the role of transformational leadership. Transformational leaders engage in the facilitation of building and sustaining relationships and interactions as a driver of business success.
Social capital can be defined using three key approaches. For example, Paul Adler, first highlights the critical role of social networks in developing relationships with other actors in order to enhance the performance of individuals and groups1. Loïc Wacquant and Pierre Bourdieu depict social capital as those resources accessible through possessing social networks and mutual and institutionalized relationships among actors2. And, Alejandro Portes defines social capital as enhancing people’s capabilities in securing benefits received by joining in social networks as they assimilate within and among the group3. Thus, Adler’s first approach is that social capital is a resource accessible through social networks that enhances group cohesiveness.
Adler’s second view evaluates social capital as a result of “a collection of people’s internal characteristics”, and focuses on the importance of internal structures in improving cohesiveness to achieve goals1. Thus, social capital could be defined as “the existence of a certain set of informal values or norms shared among members of a group that permit cooperation among them”1. Moreover, social capital builds a foundational platform for people to thrive within organizations.
Adler’s third approach embraces both enhanced individual performance and succeeding individual resource views. He argues that the relationships between an employee and other people are external to the employee and internal to the firm. Janine Nahapiet and Sumantra Ghoshal describe social capital as “the sum of the actual and potential resources embedded within, available though, and derived from the network of relationships possessed by an individual or social unit. Social capital thus comprises both the network and assets that may be mobilized through that network” to enhance effectiveness and efficiency in organizations4.
Social capital view is therefore based on two main aspects: social networks and a collection of people’s internal characteristics such as but not limited to trust-based relationships.
The important component about my discussion here about social capital, trust-based relationships, and building a community within an organization that thrives on communication is that these practices are linked to the concept of transformational leadership.
Transformational leadership, while well known in many circles from the boardroom to the mail-room, has not completely been accepted by all executives in organizations. The lack of acceptance of transformational leadership, for the most part, is due to the plethora of leadership models and theories funnelled through the academic scholars and extant media channels such as magazines and trade journals. However, transformational leaders argue that major changes depend on changing attitudes and assumptions at the individual and group levels and thus has a strong correlation with the social capital view.
Transformational leaders highlight the importance of employee’s attitudes and values in achieving organizational goals, and highlight how effective organizational change is related to developing and maintaining social capital and trust in and among both followers and leaders alike.
Why is transformational leadership important to executives? The answer to this question relies on the correlation and link between fostering people to become the best they can be but then moves them beyond their own self-interests and links the individual interests to the collective interests of the organization. Transformational leaders, therefore, enhance human capital and include social capital to implement change to create valuable new resources for the organization as a whole. Therefore, it is important for executives to realize the strong alignment between transformational leadership and the social capital view. Building upon this logic, Jon Pemberton, Sharon Mavin and Brenda Stalker posit that communities of practice are groups of like-minded people whose interconnectedness requires a form of leadership in which “the freedom to explore new ideas and set its own agenda, free from the shackles of organizational missives, has been achieved by the commitment of its members and facilitated by a coordinator acting as a leader for the purposes of organizing meetings.”5 Thus, transformational leadership is applicable to organizations that are attempting to improve communication as an important component of social networking.
Executives are continuously looking to intellectual stimulation as a way to manage their workforce better. Intellectual stimulation, which is a component of Transformational leadership, facilitates knowledge sharing by enhancing collaboration among followers and stakeholders. For example, Elayne Coakes and Peter Smith, posit that transformational leadership theory is appropriate for contributing to communities of practice through developing innovative workplaces in which organizational knowledge is shared by encouraging participation in social networks6. Moreover, David Braga maintains that transformational leaders are effective networkers who provide “a flow of ideas, ask the right questions, and make the most appropriate assumptions” within organizations7. Transformational leaders have become a role models when it comes to encouraging the flow of ideas and increasing social capital. Followers, under the auspices of the transformational leader, perceive themselves to be more stimulated to develop trust-based relationships that create and disseminate knowledge throughout the organization. Thus, transformational leadership theory coupled with the social capital view is indicative of transformational leaders acting as social architects who develop the organization’s social capital.
This article contributes to theory by developing a more comprehensive understanding of the relationships between transformational leadership and social capital view. I suggest that executives who exhibit a high level of transformational leadership build social capital and this is how competitive advantage can become a distinctive resource that opens up opportunities while avoiding possible threats such as but not limited to take-over and acquisitions. Furthermore, this article contributes to practice by identifying the ways in which to build social capital through transformational leadership.
 Adler, PS 2002 Social Capital: Prospects for a New Concept. The Academy of Management Review, 27(1), 17-40.
 Wacquant, LJD & Bourdieu, P 1992 An invitation to reflexive sociology. Cambridge: Polity Press.
 Portes, A 1998 Social Capital: Its Origins and Applications in Modern Sociology. Annual Review of Sociology, 24(1), 1-24.
 Nahapiet, J & Ghoshal, S 1998 Social Capital, Intellectual Capital, and the Organizational Advantage. The Academy of Management Review, 23(2), 242-266.
 Pemberton, J, Mavin, S & Stalker, B 2007 Scratching beneath the surface of communities of (mal)practice. Learning Organization, 14(1), 62–73.
 Coakes E & Smith P 2007 Developing communities of innovation by identifying innovation champions. The Learning Organization, 14(1), 74 – 85.
 Braga, D 2002 Transformational leadership attributes as perceived by team members of knowledge networks (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Pepperdine University, USA.
Mostafa Sayyadi is a Senior Management Consultant and Former Leadership Team Member of San Diego-based The Change Leader Consulting Inc. He is an Associate Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management, a Book Author and Business and Technology Journalist.