Who Are The Members Of Your Inner Circle?

A Leader’s Inner Circle
By John C. Maxwell

The law of the inner circle: A leader’s potential is determined by those closest to him or her. Failures of a leader’s trusted advisers can bring disaster.

Five key questions to ask when forming your inner circle:

1. Do they display exemplary character in everything they do?

Deception eats away at a leadership team like cancer. Dishonesty on the part of one member of an inner circle can bring shame and disaster to all. Entire organizations have toppled from the misbehavior of one bad apple.

2. Do they bring complementary gifts to the table?

Imbalance within an inner circle can attune a leader’s ear to only one side of an argument. When putting together an inner circle, prioritize diversity of personality and perspective. By doing so, you widen the range of your vision and the breadth of your influence.

3. Do they hold a strategic position and have influence within the organization?

Members of the inner circle must have the platform and influence to implement a leader’s decisions. If they cannot be relied upon to execute a chosen strategy, then they shouldn’t be entrusted with a spot on the leadership team. In addition, inviting uninfluential advisers into the inner circle disrupts the political balance of an organization. High performers suffer a motivational blow when they see a less deserving colleague granted special access to top leadership.

4. Do they add value to the organization and to the leader?

When considering someone for the inner circle, you should be able to articulate clearly the value they will bring. Ask yourself the following questions: What will they infuse into discussion? Where do they have expertise? What unique skills can they be counted on to bring to the table?

5. Do they positively impact other members of the inner circle?

If you’ve ever inhabited a house with a feuding husband and wife, then you can understand the need for leaders in close proximity to get along. Infighting saps energy and focus from a senior leader, forcing him or her to mediate conflicts with time that could be better spent elsewhere. Differences of opinion signal healthy debate, but personal animosities destroy a leadership team. Make sure members of your inner circle have the emotional intelligence to keep arguments from becoming too personal. We’ve looked at the questions to consider when gathering a team of trusted advisers, I’d also like to offer thoughts on the two traps you can fall into when forming their inner circle.

Two common errors in constructing the inner circle:

1. Soliciting praise instead of candor.

Stacking an inner circle with flatters and “yes” men ranks among the lousiest decisions you can make as a leader. Doing so restricts your perspective, exposes you to blind spots and leaves you on an island when do-or-die decisions must be made. When picking members of your inner circle, be sure they have the gumption to voice dissent. You’ll rely on them to question your assumptions, to focus you on the mission and to measure the integrity and worthiness of your ideas.

2. Driving away talent so that your power isn’t threatened.

The wisdom of accumulating a talented inner circle may seem intuitive, but a rising star may threaten insecure leaders. Leaders should not be, and cannot be, the utmost authorities on all matters germane to the organization. Invariably, people have weaknesses. Wise leaders staff around their weaknesses, and welcome talent in areas where they lack strength.

Blessed is the man who doesn't walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the way of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers. (Psalms 1:1)

Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety. (Proverbs 11:14)

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise. (Proverbs 12:15)

Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established. (Proverbs 15:22)

Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end. (Proverbs 19:20)

There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.(Proverbs 19:21)

Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.(Proverbs 20:5)