Most people acknowledge that networking – creating a fabric of personal contacts to provide support, feedback, insight, and resources is an essential activity for an ambitious manager. Indeed, it’s a requirement even for those focused simply on doing their current jobs well. For some, this is a distasteful reality. Working through networks, they believe, means relying on who you know rather than what you know, a hypocritical, possibly unethical, way to get things done. But even people who understand that networking is a legitimate and necessary part of their job can be discouraged by the payoff because they are doing it in too limited a fashion.On the basis of a close study of 30 emerging leaders, the authors outline three distinct forms of networking. Operational networking is geared toward doing one’s assigned tasks more effectively. It involves cultivating stronger relationships with colleagues whose membership in the network is clear; their roles define them as stakeholders. Personal networking engages kindred spirits from outside an organization in an individual’s efforts to learn and find opportunities for personal advancement. Strategic networking puts the tools of networking in the service of business goals.At this level, a manager creates the kind of network that will help uncover and capitalize on new opportunities for the company. The ability to move to this level of networking turns out to be a key test of leadership. Companies often recognize that networks are valuable, and they create explicit programs to support them. But typically these programs facilitate only operational networking. Likewise, industry associations provide formal contexts for personal networking.The unfortunate effect is to give managers the impression that they know how to network and are doing so sufficiently. A sidebar notes the implication for companies’ leadership development initiatives: that teaching strategic networking skills will serve their aspiring leaders and their business goals well.