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Why “they” occupies the critical network positions?

Chih-Hsing (Sam) Liu (Department of Leisure & Recreation Administration, Ming Chuan University, Taoyuan County, Taiwan)
Bernard Gan (School of Organization and Management, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)
Yucheng Eason Zhang (Research Institute of Economics and Management, Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, Chengdu, China)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 9 February 2015




The purpose of this paper is to draw on social network theory to develop a new theoretical model to explain how experience and leadership influence critical network position. Broad analyses of the mediating role of leadership between experience and critical network position calls attention to the need to investigate the direct relationship between leadership and critical network position. Empirical examinations of the roles of leadership and experience within the social network context are lacking. The authors seeks to fill this gap by constructing a new theoretical model and testing it in the knowledge-intensive sector.


The authors made 3,356 observations involving 427 faculty members in business and management departments in Taiwanese universities. To test the model, the authors performed two different regression models using the Baron and Kenny (1986) procedure and the Sobel test.


The results that the authors obtained lead to three conclusions. First, scholars’ experience positively relates to leadership in grouping the followers toward the common goal and to their publications. Second, scholars’ leadership predicts occupying the critical network position, which, in turn, facilitates acquiring more information and resources. Third, experience relates to critical network position through influence on personal leadership.

Research limitations/implications

Although the insights gained from the study are important in theoretical and empirical implications, this study has its limitations. The research examined the professional interaction networks of business management scholars of Taiwanese universities. Although the authors believe that the findings are generalizable to other fields of similar phenomena settings, there are also settings where the generalizability of the study is probably quite limited. Future research could study samples in other fields, such as biomedical research and chemical research, and samples in other knowledge-intensive industries.

Practical implications

The results imply that managers can reap the benefits of their leadership either informal or informal organizations by occupying a critical position to control the flow of resources and information. In other words, the results indicate that leadership can be developed through experience. As well, leadership plays an important mediating role between experience and critical network positions. This may seem to contradict the evidence from research on network concepts and resources control, which primarily draws attention to leadership being a helpful quality for those in critical network positions.


This research extends beyond previous studies that focussed on the value of critical network positions. Furthermore, the paper also examines how the relationship between prior relevant experience and leadership plays a role in academic network settings. To the authors’ knowledge, no studies explore this perspective. Finally, studies that examine the relationship between business management academic networks and different methodology used to measures the network position are few in number, and those that use such longitudinal empirical work are particularly lacking. This study addresses these issues.



Liu, C.-H.(S)., Gan, B. and Zhang, Y.E. (2015), "Why “they” occupies the critical network positions?", Management Decision, Vol. 53 No. 1, pp. 100-123.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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