The Importance of an Inner Circle

The people closest to you will determine the level of your success. This is why leaders must be intentional about having the right inner circle of people around them. I have found some essential elements to consider when it comes to who should be in a leader’s inner circle. They include:

  • People you trust and respect.
  • People who have character and integrity, they live by their beliefs, values and convictions.
  • People who have a variety of skills, talents, and personalities.
  • People who already have influence with others.
  • People who are willing to take the journey with you, through the good (successes) and bad (failures) times.
  • People who are competent and have a proven track record of success and achievement.
  • People who add value to the organization and are team players.
  • People who are driven and passionate about the purpose, vision, and goals of the organization or team.

In John Maxwell’s book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership he says, “A leaders potential is determined by those closest to him.”

Here are two practical ways to build and have a strong inner circle:

1. Connect and build relationships- Having an inner circle of people requires that you have been deliberate in building and having relationships. This is because your inner circle will come from the relationships you have already developed. To begin the process I recommend reading my post: 8 Keys to Building and Having Lasting Relationships. Build relationships with others and over time you will see the people who should be in your inner circle.

2. Be strategic- Leaders are around people the majority of the time. Though our time is spent around others, it’s critical that you are careful and wise about the people who are closest to you. Being strategic about your inner circle means you take your time to determine who and how many people will be in your personal circle. A strong inner circle has a realistic number of people, I recommend between 5-8 people. Choose these people carefully.

Questions: Do you have an inner circle of people in your life? What are some characteristics or qualities of your inner circle people? How has having an inner circle allowed you to better move forward and lead?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • I want to have an inner circle. I need an inner circle. Unfortunately, many have problems being in a pastor’s inner circle. They tend to be intimidated. I don’t try to come off that way by any stretch. I want and need accountability. I need input into my life and ministry. I look for men who offer integrity, a willingness to say what needs said but with love and kindness, and a willingness to hold my feet to the fire.

    • Bernard Haynes

      Bill, I know pastors struggle with having an inner circle. I was in the inner circle of a couple of pastors and I know the struggles from both sides. I had no problem with it as long as they wanted honest input. I will stand in prayer for you a inner circle. I will be a part of your inner circle.

    • I totally understand. I have seen the same issue with a lot of my pastor friends and even when I was a youth leader. Have you thought about connecting with other pastor’s who can encourage and hold each other accountable? Maybe starting a monthly pastor coffee morning or lunch might be something to think about. I’ll be pray God sends people your way to be in your inner circle:)

    • What about other pastors in your area? Or elders in your church? I agree – there has to be some separation from your congregation…

  • I am looking to develop an inner circle, especially to help take Ignite to the next level. Great thoughts, Dan!

    • That’s great Jason! Thanks for reading and sharing.

  • I’ve been blessed with an inner-circle for nearly two years now. It’s an accountability group that meets by conference call twice per month. We send each other our goals, and we have to report back to the group about the progress we’ve made (or haven’t made). They are guys who have entrepreneurial mindsets and are leaders. It’s important to find people who are traveling in the same direction and who will provide honest feedback.

    • That’s so cool Chris! Great point about having the people be like minded or on the same path as us:)

      I recently started connecting with a small group of writers, bloggers, and influences(inner circle) of people who conference call each other every month and also connect in between calls. We encourage each other in all areas of life and not just moving toward our dreams. I’ve seen some great value in doing this:)

      Thank you for sharing!

      • Awesome Dan! This encouragement is so valuable to our growth.

  • During the “hey day” I thought I had a group of like minded inner circle people… I was wrong. The majority of them melted like wax on a warm stove at the first signs of trouble. Their integrity was lip service – their character an act. The good part is the core of people that have been with me through the turn down have blossomed and shown who my real inner circle is. I’m blessed. God has a way of separating the good from the bad. Great post. I know for sure this isn’t theory… This is truth… Thanks, Dan.

    • unfortunately that can happen as well. We think we have a strong inner circle only later to find out we don’t. I’m so glad you have found your inner circle of people. I’m glad you enjoy the post, it’s all truth here:)

  • Hi Dan,

    Another excellent post, as usual.

    My personal inner circle shares most of the qualities you mentioned in your post. These are individuals who I completely trust and can talk with in confidence. They are also people who have achieved success themselves and they share the same vision or a very similar version to me. Because of this, they remain a constant source of support and inspiration.

    Thank you.

  • Hi Dan,

    Another excellent post, as usual.

    My inner circle has a lot of the qualities you mentioned in your post. These are individuals I completely trust and can talk with in confidence. They have also achieved success themselves. They also share the same vision or a very similar one to me. Because of this, they are a constant source of support and inspiration.

    Thank you.

    • Thank you Hiten:) That’s great! I have found having a strong inner circle really helps us move forward in life. Thank you for taking the time to read and add to the conversation.

  • Dan, the inner circle is key to any person’s success. If we can build up strong relationships with our inner circle, we don’t need really need to network much with others. I’ve found the few close friends and confidants to be helpful and supportive. And more importantly, always there! We all probably have inner circles or a small group of supportive and helpful friends – acknowledging their roles in our lives is probably the first step. Who should be in that circle is a strategic decision as you point out.

    • Great point about “acknowledging their roles in our life” It’s an important first step. Thank you for adding to the topic and discussion.

  • I am so thankful for the inner circle of friends I have. The number may be small, but it’s powerful! Don’t know what I’d do without them.

    Your post reminds me of the old saying, “show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”

    • I think our inner circle of friends is or should be small.

      Great quote! Thanks for adding the the conversation:)

  • Bernard Haynes

    I really appreciate the inner circle of friends that surrounds me. I have three men that have helped me through some difficult moments in my life. I recommend to people all the time the importance of a strong and solid inner circle.

    • That’s great Bernard. It’s so crucial to have one, especially if we want to succeed and thrive in life. Thank you for sharing.

  • Great post Dan. I do have an inner circle, but dynamics have shifted since we moved (from Africa to US). They are loyal, devoted to God and family, huge sense of fun and a love for good food :). They’ve kept me accountable, growing.

    • Hello Ngina,

      I’m sure it has. I totally relate with you because when I moved from Portland OR to San Diego most of my inner circle of people lived in Portland. However, we have still stayed connected! Thank you for sharing.

      • Did you build a new inner circle after your move? For us, we realize that it might take a lot of time to build these kind of connections :)

        • It does take time, my wife and I are still building friendships and “inner circle” people here in San Diego but I make sure to stay in contact with people I moved away from. I’m also building a inner circle of blogging friends(A guys group) where we conference call every month and help each other out in all the different areas of our life.

  • You and our group are part of my inner circle now. Here in Milwaukee I have three friends that are closer then brothers, if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be where I’m at. They are 100% honest with me even when I don’t want to hear it. They push me to go higher and stronger and they’re there when I fall down :)

    • Thanks man, I consider you one of my inner circle of blogging friends. I think having a inner circle both online and offline is important. You have that done bro! Looking forward to helping each other move forward in life!!!

  • Dan, I do have an inner Circle of friends that I count on and you all have contributed to that as you know. However, in my Business I have yet to create a TRUE inner circle of individuals that truly are on the same mission and Battle field. I have acquaintances and Business partners but no Inner Circle. I think this is a call for me to start creating one. Its important as you say to have that circle and be very careful who is in it. Thanks for sharing this..

    • Starting to build your inner circle with some of your business partners is a good idea. I think it also can bring unity and value to the team. Thank you for reading and taking the time to share.

  • Good thoughts Dan. In this inner circle, we need people who love us enough to get in our way … I actually just blogged about that today myself.

  • This is true. Qualities of the people we hang around the most will always rub off on us. It’s best to choose people who’s qualities you admire. Overtime, you begin to reflect those traits. Eventually, you’ll find that you’re just one of them — traits and all.

    Your inner circle reflects who you are and who you will become.

    Cheers!

    • Trevor, exactly! It’s like Jim Rohn said when he talked about the 5 people you spend the most time with. It’s who you become.

      • Love Jim Rohn! Thanks for adding that Joe.

    • I totally agree, we defiantly become like the people we spend our time with. It’s amazing how that tends to happen. Thanks for reading and adding to the conversation.

  • Characteristics of people I want in my inner circle: Christ-follower, leader, driven, motivated, unique, passionate, has incredible integrity and wants to change the world.

    There’s probably more but those encompass most everything I can imagine right now. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m stoked to be part of such a great community you have here.

    • Those are some great characteristics Jared. I think one of the most important one is “Christ-Follower” while stilling be authentic and real.

      Glad to have you apart of the community. Your opinion and insights really add value to me and the other people who read this blog.

  • I’m working on it Dan. Things are coming together and there have been some great times of sharing in certain groups I’m involved in. I’m looking for motivated people who are looking to move to that next area of life. I’d like to be there and I’d like others to join me on that ride.

    • It does take work and time. Those are some great things to look for Joe. Taking the journey with others is always more enjoyable. Thank you for reading and sharing.

  • I’d say I have 4 on my inner circle right now. For me it’s particularly helpful to have people with different personalities than me and different skill sets. They usually see things from a different angle and can identify problems that I might not see.

    • That’s a great point Caleb. People with different personalities and skills can provide us with a different perspective about life and what we are going through. Thanks for sharing that insightful comment:)

  • For me, it helps to ensure that the people I am closest with share an important trait with me. They must be dreamers. Example:

    I was spinning an idea about a ministry project at lunch yesterday. After listening to my dream, my friend’s response was something to this effect, “That’s awesome!”, “then you could…” and “man, think how many people could be touched.” As he encouraged me with his enthusiasm towards my rather lofty idea, my vision for it actually expanded.

    On the other hand, I could have shared this idea with someone else, and got a response similar to Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, “It’ll never work”. Eeyore was a member or the “Dream prevention team.”

    I protect my dreams and visions by filling my inner circle with dreamers and visionaries.

    • Hello Charles,

      Great example!!! Having dream lifters in your inner circle is essential. They allow us to see and think bigger. You shared some great wisdom. Thank you for taking the time to read and share. It’s great to hear from you:)

  • It’s so true that we’ll see the qualities of the people who we spend our most time reflected in ourselves, it’s worth taking the time to find the right people! In the real world I can’t say I do have an inner circle, the only one I have is with a few friends of mine over the internet. We may not have ‘real’ relationships but it’s oh so helpful, I couldn’t express how much things like that help, but one day I do wish to find a close group of friends who I can associate with regularly that help me grow and prosper.

    Wonders must be created in your inner circle, they are truly magical things. Thanks for sharing this, Dan, you’ve provided some useful guidelines that went straight into my journal, I’d never thought of a list like that to define who I wish to spend most of my time with!

    • Great point about time, it defiantly takes time to build a relationship with someone enough to move them into your inner circle. I hope your friendship with your new internet grows strong.

      I’m glad I could help. Thank you for reading and taking the time to share.

  • Gladys Cruz

    Hello Dan
    What a great subject for discussion. As we look around us, some of the leaders (spiritual and political) are lacking one of the most important traits or earmark, that is “Integrity”. I heard someone say a long time ago, that God makes the “man/woman” before he sents them out to be a leader to others. One area that I look for is the :Team Effiort of those in the inner circle.
    At this present time, I am building relationships on the internet with other bloggers, and we came together to form a google hangout. It is great for all of.
    We need each other.
    When it comes to vision, I share it with a close group of people that are around me. They can hear my heart and encourage me when the going gets tough.
    Dan great post and I am looking forward to building a relationship with you.
    Gladys posted… Create your blueprint for life…

    • Hello Gladys Cruz,

      Integrity is so essential and I agree many leaders who are in the spot lite are lacking it.

      I also have a inner circle of blogging friends who connect each month on Google hangout, those times are so valuable for me. Connecting and relationships building is so important when it comes to live and blogging:)

      Thank you for checking out my blog and commenting. I look forward to connecting with you as well:)

  • Tim Bonner

    I used to have an inner circle when I was in employment before I gave up work to be a stay at home dad.

    Now, I have to rely on my inner circle to be from my blogging friends and my family.

    I’ve met some truly great and inspirational people online and they keep me on the right track and motivated.

    • Blogging friends and family are potentially some of the best inner circle members. I’m sure the shift from working to being a stay at home was a huge (but good) change. Thank you for stopping by to read and share.

  • I totally agree that we grow a lot when we surround ourselves with great people. But I wonder, also – isn’t there value in getting to know people just to know them? Does every relationship have to be about how that person can influence us positively? Your thoughts?

    • I think their is value in getting to know people just to know them. Every relationships we start or have is not going to necessarily turn into a friendship or inner circle person. I think it’s about being around and connecting with everyone while being careful who speaks into our life and influences our actions(inner circle). Thank you for reading and adding to the discussion.

  • Sas

    For me a lesson has been that people in my inner circle don’t necessarily have to be each other’s inner circles (or even know each other). I moved a lot as a kid, so maybe it’s just my life pattern, but i never had the “group” I belonged to, I always was friends with one or two key people from each group and acquaintances with the rest.

    Oftentimes I think that’s a lot harder – I do see some friends and their inner circle is the same group they went to school with, it’s so easily packaged because you can get your inner circle together in one big group fairly easily. But I don’t seem to fit that way, I seem to fit better with individuals.

    My inner circle lives all around the world, and each person inspires me for the integrity and the compassion they demonstrate in the world every day.

    • Hello Sas,

      Great thoughts. I agree about the people in your inner circle not necessarily needing to know each other. It should not be a “click of people” but people who will stretch and cause us to become better. That’s great you have inner circle people around the world. I have the same thing:) In fact I currently have no inner circle people where I live in San Diego however, I’m building relationships that might turn into inner circle people.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on the post:) Do you have a site or blog? I look forward to connecting more and hearing from you again.

      • Sas

        Hi Dan :)

        No blog for me as yet – I’m still a pen and paper writer, but I’ve very recently started mulling over the thought of my own blog! You will definitely hear from me again!

        • I highly recommend starting one(But do it in your own time) I think many great benefits come from blogging. I hope you have a great rest of the weekend and I’ll talk to you soon.

  • Excellent post Dan. My inner circle is filled with passionate people who legitimately care about others. Their strong willed, hard working, and able to overcome obstacles. They age old saying you are who you hang out should be present in everyones mind.

    • Thank you Nate:) Those are great characteristics of people who should be in our inner circle. Thank you for sharing.

  • Hi Dan, …I can’t really say I do have an ‘inner circle’ per se. However, there are a handful of people whom I trust and who’s opinions I value and I try to connect with the types of people you describe above. For some reason “surround yourself with thoroughbreds” comes to mind, advice I received a long time ago and try to live by. Thanks for this excellent post! ~Ilka

    • Hello Ilka,

      It’s great to have people around us who can support and help us. We all need help every once in a while. Thank you stopping by to read and share your thoughts:)

      I hope to see you around:)