7 Relationships All Leaders Need
(And How to Build Them)

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7-Relationships-a-leader-needs As a business leader, relationships are critical to your current and future success. But, what sort of people should you surround yourself with? Here are seven people every leader needs in their life and ways you can start (or continue) building these relationships today.  Do not be intimidated, as each one of these relationships can be built through the Successful Thinkers network.

1. The Peer Climber

  • Who They Are: A peer in the same career path, organizational level, field, or industry.
  • Why You Need Them: This person can help you understand current trends and demands in your business world. They’ll offer insight, ideas, and help when you need to talk to someone who just gets it.
  • How to Build this Relationship: Spend time together outside of work to cultivate this relationship. Join a professional organization together, or set up regular lunch meetings with this individual. Consider having a peer-to-peer business book club together so you can share insights and issues as they come up.

2. The Trendsettercar-blue-trendsetter-blur-early

  • Who They Are: This lifelong learner is always on top of the trends. They are always ahead of the curve with innovative thinking and solutions in business and life. They’re not waiting to see what everyone else is doing. They’re too busy forging ahead and trailblazing what’s next.
  • Why You Need Them: With today’s pressures of tighter budgets, limited personnel, and critical business goals, you need someone in your life to help you keep your eyes open to fresh and interesting ideas. They can help you keep up to date on trends that matter and point you to the people and resources you’ll need when it’s time to move beyond the status quo.
  • How to Build this Relationship: The trendsetter will appreciate ideas and information, so ask them to share interesting articles they come across, and return the favor by opening up your resources and professional knowledge to them. Register to attend a conference or convention on an emerging trend with this individual to bond over a learning experience.

3. The Experienced Executive

  • Who They Are: More seasoned in the business world than you are, they broker influence and garner respect within your industry and community, whether or not they have an executive title.
  • Why You Need Them: Their insight and been-there-done-that knowledge will be a vital resource as you address the continual challenges leadership brings. No matter where you are in your career, they are always someone you can learn from.
  • How to Build this Relationship: With a busy, seasoned professional, the main challenge to building a relationship will most likely be time. So, be direct and honest with this individual, letting them know you’d like them to serve as a mentor. Then, create a formal or informal time to meet so you can regularly learn from the experience they have to share, and find ways to lead up to make their time investment truly valuable.

4. The Honest Anchorhonest-anchor-time

  • Who They Are: This person ties you to reality and tells you things like they are. They may or may not be a member of your organization, industry, or even the work world. Regardless, they have the ability to listen first and then cut through the drama, politics, or emotion to help give you perspective to see any situation for what it really is.
  • Why You Need Them: Their discernment and honesty will help you see the perspective of others, which you will need as you make the difficult decisions leadership requires.
  • How to Build this Relationship: Don’t just go to this person when you have a problem. Spend time getting to know them so you can develop a close, trusting bond. True honesty only stems from a close relationship of mutual respect, so focus on ways you can build that valuable asset.

5. The Up-And-Comer little-girl-climbing-rock

  • Who They Are: An emerging professional with leadership potential who is eager to learn and ready to take on the challenges and rewards of leadership.
  • Why You Need Them: Surrounding yourself only with people at your level or above can quickly get you out of sync with the realities of those you lead. The passion and drive of an outstanding new professional can energize you and help you stay in tune with the trends and needs of your workforce. Plus, investing time into mentoring someone less experienced than you is one of the greatest rewards of true leadership.
  • How to Build this Relationship: Whether you develop a formal or informal mentoring relationship, make it a point to meet regularly just to chat and share information and insight. You may find yourself learning just as much as you are teaching.

6. The Community Connection

  • Who They Are: The go-to guy or gal in your community, this person is involved, connected, and respected in your local market.
  • Why You Need Them: More than simply a walking, talking Rolodex, they will be able to keep you up to date about community activities you should be involved in as a leader. They’ll have a good idea of what boards you should serve on, what projects to volunteer for, and what people you should get to know locally.
  • How to Build this Relationship: This person will probably be very visible within the community, but they might be very busy as well. To become more than simply one of many acquaintances, develop a close relationship by finding a common passion and volunteer with this person to help an important cause or organization. Go beyond surface-level networking and build a friendship that adds value to both of your lives.

7. The Breath of Fresh AirWEBBreathofFresh Air_SE_070108

  • Who They Are: Someone outside of your normal business pace. They may be retired, stay at home with children or family, or be a digital nomad and write their own rules for work.
  • Why You Need Them: The different pace of life they lead will help you get a fresh look at the world away from work. They will help you set priorities for work and life that aren’t just focused on the here and now or the strategic business future. They’ll help you say “no” when you need to and help you prioritize for important things like family time, vacations, and leisure activities.
  • How to Build this Relationship: Take an afternoon off every once in a while to experience life in their shoes during your normal workday. Read a book of fiction together, start a cooking club, or take your pets to the park. Spend time with this individual in a setting they’re comfortable in, and try to steer clear of business talk when they’re around. Then, use the inspiration you receive from them to approach work with fresh eyes. And remember that work’s not all there is to life.


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