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5 Relationships Every Leader Needs

There are five key relationships that every leader needs to thrive. While these aren’t always a one-to-one match (i.e. one person, one relationship), they represent key inputs and a continuum of perspectives we all need to support, guide, and grow our practice.

1. Supporter

Our supporters are the people whose primary investment is in us as people. Their support is unconditional. In other words, they support us when our leadership is working and when it isn’t. They keep us growing even when we may have lost faith in ourselves.

2. Collaborator

Our collaborators are those who get into the leadership mix with us. This can mean getting their hands dirty with us as we lead people, or diving in to challenge us intellectually. Our collaborators are also leaders and their success and failure are directly tied to our own.

3. Critical Friend

Our critical friends are deeply trusted peers. They can also be collaborators, but they often work in parallel, not directly with us. These are the people who see our work and our process most wholly and ask us the most challenging questions that push and refine our work. A critical friend could be a very different thinker or work in a different medium or discipline than we do.

4. Promoter

While our supporters, collaborators, and critical friends may tell their friends about us, our promoters tell everyone who will listen. They are bought in to our leadership and are willing to step up to put their own name down as an endorsement. Promoters can be developed organically, or perhaps even hired, depending on the context and the direction of our leadership.

5. Respected Critic/Doubter

This one may be less intuitive, but our critics tap a different motivation than any of the other relationships here. They may even spur spite, indignation, and a desire to prove them wrong. These may seem odd things to want in our lives, but they have the potential to make us better leaders. So, these are not the critics we dismiss simply because we think they don’t like us. These are people whose doubt of us matters to us in some way.


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