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5 Key Connections Every Leader Must Have in Their Professional Network


March 7, 2024

The path to successful leadership often depends on your network. Your connections shape who you are and who you'll become. Cultivating connections is strategic, like building a chessboard where each piece is vital.

To be an effective leader, surround yourself with those who expand your horizons, challenge you, and support your growth. Each leadership role requires a unique set of people, but there are key professionals every leader should connect with, regardless of industry or career stage.

Read on to learn more about five essential connections you want in your network and how they benefit your leadership development.


The Industry Insider
The industry insider is a living database of your field. They work on the frontline and understand the industry rigor and nuances better than anyone. Engaging with them provides valuable insights, trends, and industry secrets not easily found online or in formal education.

How to Spot Them
Industry insiders are often thought leaders, veteran practitioners, or top-level executives who have a wealth of experience and a robust professional network.

Why You Need Them
By forging connections with these insiders, you gain access to a tapestry of experiences, emerging patterns, and predictive wisdom that can keep you two steps ahead of the competition.


The Mentor
The mentor is your guiding star, offering personalized advice and direction based on their own career triumphs and hard-won wisdom. They are the lifeline that can help you weather the inevitable ups and downs of your leadership journey.

How to Spot Them
Mentors are typically individuals you admire, who have achieved a measure of the success you aspire to reach, and who have a vested interest in your growth.

Why You Need Them
Mentors can provide valuable coaching to develop your leadership style, offer insights into navigating organizational politics, and act as a sounding board for your professional dilemmas.


The Innovator
The innovator stays steps ahead, constantly generating and executing ideas that challenge boundaries. Collaborating with innovative minds can bring new perspectives, modern solutions, and adaptability to your leadership style. When it comes to your personal aspirations, Entrepreneur suggests businesses owners and entrepreneurs aim to become industry innovators rather than industry leaders.

How to Spot Them
Innovators are the creators, the disruptors, and the visionaries who are unafraid to challenge the status quo and are often at the forefront of change in your industry.

Why You Need Them
Networking with innovators can inspire you to experiment with new strategies, systems, and technologies, ensuring that your leadership is progressive and not pigeonholed in outdated methodologies.


The Connector
Connectors aren't defined by industry prowess or innovation, but by their network. They're social butterflies, with connections to key players in your industry. A strong bond with a connector can unlock doors to new collaborations, partnerships, and opportunities you didn't realize were possible.

How to Spot Them
According to Simon Zyrd, investor and business mentor, connectors are valuable allies who genuinely enjoy introducing others, value relationships, and are trusted by many in their network to curate connections.

Why You Need Them
Connectors can significantly expand your reach, facilitate strategic partnerships, and grant you access to the inner circles of influencers and decision-makers.


The Challenger
This last type in your leadership network is just as critical. The challenger is the contrarian, the devil's advocate who will test your ideas, plans, and positions. Although they may often seem like the thorn in your side, they provide an invaluable service by preventing groupthink and pushing you to articulate and defend your convictions.

How to Spot Them
Challengers present as individuals who are outspoken, unafraid to go against the grain, and who consistently offer alternative perspectives. On the outside, they may look like the innovator but in a professional relationship they may impact your development by acting as a challenger.

Why You Need Them
Challengers help you to refine your thinking, challenge assumptions, and ensure that your leadership isn't just about making decisions but making the right decisions through logical analysis and thorough examination.


Building a diverse professional network is like forming a versatile team. Each member adds unique value, boosting the group's potential. By connecting with the five types of individuals outlined, you'll create a strong ecosystem for your growth as a leader.

Consider our upcoming programs for Entrepreneurs who want to benefit from peer-to-peer mentoring and gaining insight from other leaders that you want to have in your networking circle!


Join Entrepreneurs Forever for a lunch and learn to hear more about their amazing peer-to-peer mentoring program.


Our business owner roundtable focus for March is "MARKETING for Business Owners".



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