When you join a Network Marketing or Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) company you start as an Independent Distributor / Business owner. That terminology or the word ‘Independent’ is usually part of the contractual description in your joining form. Network Marketing is described as an independent business where you are on your own but don’t work alone. In other words it’s your business with support and guidance around you from people who have already successfully built their business. Network Marketing also goes by the term Team Marketing because building TEAMs and being part of a TEAM is integral to the development of the NETWORK of independent businesses that make up your organisation, and are the basis on which the Income and Marketing Plan are derived.  






“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”


In this context each team member (Independent business owner) has their own reason for building their business and their own, goals and their own idea of success but the combination of all of the (Independent Businesses) team members, and the collaboration and support derived from the collective leads to the overall Success of the independent businesses and even more so for the entire organisation or originator TEAM Member (Upline). Which is also within a larger organisation and a larger organisation. And so on.

The premise in Network Marketing is that through collaboration and support (TEAM work) each Independent Business Owner can develop the skills, knowledge and confidence to build their own network. Leaders emerge naturally as those people who develop a stronger TEAM community, who proactively support the TEAM members and provide an environment where those TEAMS (and their TEAMS ) can flourish.   

In my experience, the reality is somewhat different. Independent Business Owners are very quickly deemed dependent and then this is perpetuated by the Leadership system.

From the very beginning of your journey In Network Marketing / MLM the developing Leaders is given high importance.

From your upline becoming your Leader, and their upline and so on to the Leaders you see all over Facebook and on the stage. From the moment you start your business you are primed as the Leader in your own business.

There is mindset training, personal development and success training. In recent times we have seen many new Leaders emerging and getting centre stage and huge audiences watching every move they make and hanging on to every word they say.

In many cases now the idolisation of Leaders in Network Marketing has created a power-based style of Leadership and this is fed so well by a traditional approach which seems to overlook some of the fundamentals and undermine why people see Network Marketing as attractive and effective.

Why is dependency so endemic?

  • It makes it easier for the Upline to Manage their organisation if everyone in their organisation is doing the same thing.
  • Creating Leaders helps to keep this process streamlined. People like being called Leaders.
  • If it’s easier to ‘streamline’ the process then this speeds up perceived success. If the Upline is doing what their Upline has told them (to make it easier for their Upline to Manage…) the ‘success’ is ‘inevitable’
  • It is easier to give attention and focus to the people who are ‘in the system’’
  • It takes a huge amount of energy to motivate people so it’s much easier to work with the ones who have bought into ‘The system’ and to let the others fend for themselves, unless they decide to change their minds and prove their commitment.  
  • Those people who are not ‘In’ decide that NM doesn’t work for them or that they are failures because they aren’t the right fit and no longer ‘belong’
  • The Upline’s Upline is doing the same to them so they have to tow the line too… an undertone of fear and guilt is often present.
  • The energy needed to keep everyone motivated and on message is intoxicating (and exhausting) but worth it because it is encouraged and comes with kudos. ‘Leaders’ emerge emulating their Leaders. People like being called a Leader.
  • People are attracted to Kudos and that builds more Kudos and more momentum. It’s then even easier to say it works (and it does) if you have a massive tribe of people looking up at you. If all the other ‘Leaders’ are talking about you. It is impossible to work with everyone so only working with the ones that work THE way and the emerging ‘Leaders’ in your organisation to keep ‘THE way’ the right way is the focus. Only people that fit can stay in the community that has been created.
  • People need to belong, often at all costs. It’s a basic human need. They’ll jump through hoops to stay ‘In’.  So the Kudos wins.

And this does seems to work for some people. However, for many, it doesn’t which is why the turnover of people is so high.

Leadership is not about being in charge, Leadership is about taking care of people in your charge

Simon Sinek

Leadership is about creating a healthy environment in which those people around you can thrive. Building a supportive and collaborative community where everyone is valued and has value.

Leadership is about creating the space where the knowledge and experience you share allows people to grow in a way that works for them.

There is no hierarchy in Leadership. A Leader isn’t better than anyone else, they are just good at seeing the bigger picture and helping others to find their way.

A Leader trusts that people already have what they need in themselves and their job is to help them find it.

Leadership is not managing people or motivating people. Leadership is leading by example  and with integrity and allowing people to take what they need.   

You don’t need pedestals in Leadership.

Leadership is about creating good energy not high energy.

And let’s return to the definition of ‘Independent’ from the Oxford Dictionaries:

  • Free from outside control; not subject to another’s authority, self-governing
  • Not belonging to or supported by an external part
  • Not depending on another for livelihood or subsistence
  • Capable of thinking or acting for oneself
  • Not influenced by others; impartial
  • Not connected with another or with each other; separate:treating each part as an independent unit of production
  • Not depending on something else for strength or effectiveness

Hmmm interesting, so you are an ‘Independent’ distributor/business owner by contract, yet the approach in many companies is to ignore this the minute you sign up and step through the door.  

So are you dependent or independent? Are your Leaders really leading you?

Without a doubt, and with all the pizazz out there it is certain that Success is being achieved by some.

For most, the world of dependency leaves them getting high, then struggling with the downer and looking for their next magic fix. Which before long doesn’t really give them the same kick or they recognise that the rest of their world feels quite empty and disconnected.

Network Marketing is about INDEPENDENT businesses working in a community of collaboration support and with a TEAM approach.

Independent businesses are run by people who bring their own set of skills, experience, strengths and personality and take responsibility for their own development and growth, with the support and help around and available to them and seeking out what else they need. Independent business owners choose a way of working that really does work with their values and lifestyle and are optimistic about how this may evolve over time.

Strong Independent businesses may take longer to build, but they are sustainable, healthy and lead to strong sustainable networks with no need for hype, struggle and pedestals or burnout.

Whilst your upline has a key support role to play, ‘Independent’ means it’s YOUR business and your choice not their’s …

Michelle Turner-Davidson is a speaker, trainer and mentor specialising in developing people and teams and taking the fear, hype and struggle out of network marketing. 

To find out how Michelle can help you, or if anything in this article resonates with you, do get in touch. You can fill out the comments below, email her at michelle@laterthanyouthink.co.uk or connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter @MichTD,  Facebook  or check out the rest of this website MichelleTurnerDavidson.com 

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