by Michael Holland    

John Maxwell’s 11th Irrefutable Law of Leadership (from The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You) states that a leader’s potential is determined by his inner circle, those closest to him.

Basically, your success as a leader, whether you’re a CEO or a new supervisor, builds from the strength of the immediate team which either makes you stronger or holds you back.  It’s not that you need the brightest MBA or the savviest CPA or the most gifted COO in the circle, but more that you need strong, dedicated, forward thinking, positive players.  You need to have folks that will challenge you to achieve greater outcomes.  And the inner circle is not just comprised of people who report to you.  Friends, confidants, spouses and pastors can be players in your inner circle.

The “fun” part is figuring out who and which combinations of people will create the best inner circle for you during this season of your leadership life cycle.  Through time and change of environments, the circle will change both in size and composition.

Take Action:

  • Draw three concentric circles on a piece of paper (or grab this template from our website).
  • Place names of colleagues, friends and others within the circles regarding their proximity to you, noting who is part of your inner circle today, who is in the next circle out and who may be in the outer circle/band.
  • Next, decide who gets arrows:  either an arrow away from the center or an arrow toward the center.
  • Finally, determine what actionable steps you will take to adjust your inner circle.

You are the one that can determine when it’s appropriate to adjust the size and composition of the inner circle.  How well you anticipate, plan for and then execute the potential change in your inner circle correlates directly to the level of your success.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • Was it difficult to put people in the outer most circle?  Why?  What were you feeling?
  • With your actionable items – moving people inwards or outwards among the circles – which will be the easiest? Most difficult?
  • Which circle might you fall within, for the circles these people would create:  your employees, your boss, your best friend from college, a peer manager?
  • 10 years from today, who will have moved among your circles?  Who would you want to have in the innermost circle?