Six Types of Professional Relationships Leaders Have (pt.3)


We have already discussed the first 4 types of professional relationships: Inner circle members, friends, supporters, and lifters. Those are the main types of relationships you should have and maintain. As you will see, the last two are only infrequent or necessary but unhealthy relationships. Let’s discuss them now,

5. Acquaintances

An acquaintance is a person you somewhat know and have had limited contact or a minimal relationship with. It might be a person who works in the same company but a different division as you, a client or customer you are just acquiring, or a new team member. These are the people you come in contact with every once in a while, you can get to know and deepen the relationship if you wanted to.

Your acquaintances have the potential to eventually turn into inner circle members, friends, supporters, or lifters. In fact, it would be wise to keep your eyes open for the acquaintances that could move into one of those areas. 17th century writer Samuel Johnson said, “If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone.” Every strong professional relationship you have now started as an acquaintance. You should treat every acquaintance with the same respect and value as you would one of your stronger relationships. A general rule is to be friendly and apply the Golden Rule which is to, “Treat others the way you would like others to treat you.” This will help you to earn the respect and influence of the different acquaintances you encounter. It can turn people into supporters, lifters, or friends.

6. Dangerous or toxic

Not every professional relationship is beneficial. There are those that can hurt the team and your leadership. These are dangerous or toxic people. The traits of these people include:

  • Those who typically have a bad attitude
  • Those who gossip, spread lies, and blame
  • Those with a frail work ethic
  • Those who negatively influence and impact others
  • Those who don’t have character, integrity, or a moral compass
  • Those who refuse to grow and resist change
  • Those who are not team players
  • Those who are self-centered and only want personal success or recognition

If you’re a leader with these types of people on your team and they refuse to change, you should remove them from your team. If you have to work with these types of people the best option is to set and maintain boundaries and expectations with them. Even though you might need to work with or frequently come in contact with them you can make sure to distance yourself from them, at least as much as possible, while still fulfilling your work requirements.

Questions: Do you have these types of people in your life? How are you building deeper relationships with your acquaintances and how do you avoiding dangerous or toxic relationships?

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10 thoughts on “Six Types of Professional Relationships Leaders Have (pt.3)

  1. Good advice. I go out of my way to treat everyone well, and for the same reasons you stated in the Golden Rule that Jesus spoke in Matthew.

    I try to avoid the bad seeds, but none of us are immune. After being burned a few times by the last group you describe it’s time for a change. Or as Jim Collins says, time to get them off the bus…

  2. Hi Dan.

    I really enjoyed this 3 part series. Will sign up to your blog for sure after posting this comment.

    As a young man (29) who has been on the journey of discovering my true self for a few years now, it’s just recently becoming apparent how much of a leader I am.

    And in the process, I’m certainly noticing the types of key relationships you’ve described in this series. Fascinating stuff.

    At present there are just two people with whom I interact several times a week (usually on a daily basis). Interestingly, I can see that both of these people are fulfilling much of the criteria you described for different roles, i.e. I see them as my inner circle, my friends, and my supporters and lifters.

    Indeed, one of them fits more into the “lifter” category while the other fits into the “supporter”. But like I said, I also see them as my inner circle and friends.

    I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on this idea of certain people fulfilling several roles.

    Thankfully, I’m like an eagle for spotting the dangerous or toxic kind of folk. And have become ruthless in weeding them out. It took a few bad experiences with people for me to learn this very pivotal lesson!!!

    Thanks for the solid content Dan,


    p.s. I also enjoyed your article on “5 reasons every leader should blog” – you’ve helped motivate me to create one in the near future 😉

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Those are great people to connect with, your on the right path. I do think certain people can be a combination of these roles at the same time I’ve found a person is typically strongest in one of the roles. Does that make sense?

      Let me know when you start a blog and I’ll promote it.

      • Thanks Dan!

        Yes that makes complete sense. And I’m currently experiencing exactly what you described, i.e. the people with whom I interact regularly each serve a combination of the roles, however they are each strongest in a particular role.

        In relation to my blog, I’m currently working on getting it up and running. Should be ready to go live in the near future.

        Thanks again for offering to promote it.

        I’ll let you know.