58. Leadership Circle Map

3 April 2024
How can I as a leader map my circle of influence?

Key Definitions

Leadership is the art of seduction. It is the ability to get people to move in a certain direction – touching their hearts and minds in such a way that they willingly go along on the journey. To have such influence, it is essential to have some type of connection with the people you are trying to sway. In other words, leadership always takes place within the context of relationships.

As Covey (1989) remarked, leaders often have a wide circle of concern (issues/people they worry about), but a more restricted circle of influence (issues/people they can impact). Their potential influence is limited to the people with whom they have some sort of relationship.

Conceptual Model

The Leadership Circle Map is a tool for charting which people are within a leader’s circle of influence. In 360-degree fashion, a distinction is made between four different directions of connections (i.e., up, down, across and out), while a distinction is also made between three different levels of connection (i.e., inner circle, outer circle, and periphery). The map can be used to plot people’s current position and to plan for future investments in relationships.

Key Elements

The three levels of connection are the following:

  1. Reputation: Knows of You. The weakest type of connection is where people are aware of your existence and have heard certain things about you, leading them to have a picture of who you are. This reputation is also referred to as your leadership brand (see Meyer’s Management Model #18), as it is the image that you have projected, triggering expectations about your identity and probable actions. Your ability to influence people in this ring is limited to using mass media (e.g., presentations and publications) and exhibiting certain behaviors in public (e.g., leading by example and giving people recognition).
  2. Relation: Knows You. Once people actually get to know you directly, they move from your periphery to your outer circle – the connection shifts to the level of being a relation. Your potential to influence people in this ring is much higher, as you can interact directly with them, via dialogue and/or joint efforts, using a variety of leadership styles. Your sway will also be increased by building trust and credibility, as you deal with each other over a prolonged period of time (see Meyer’s Management Model #6). The relationship can be professional and transactional but can grow to become more personal and structural.
  3. Rapport: Close to You. As relationships grow tighter, stronger, more affective, and more lasting, they move from the outer to the inner circle – you develop rapport with your connection. This is a sense of mutual understanding, trust, and sympathy, leading to a warmer and easier interaction. Your potential to influence people in this ring is the largest, as there is a stronger emotional bond, level of commitment and feeling of safety, leading to a high willingness to listen to the other and accept their inputs. Such a relationship is often characterized as friendship and/or a feeling of being family.

Key Insights

  • A leadership circle is about your circle of influence. Leaders are surrounded by a multitude of people, inside and outside the organization, but only have some sort of connection with a limited group. This is called their leadership circle – the collection of individuals with whom they have some type of relationship and therefore the people they can potentially influence.
  • The Leadership Circle Map is about mapping your circle of influence. As leaders often need to consider the broader circumstances in the organization, the market and even society, their circle of concern will generally be wider than their circle of influence. To focus their resources, energy, and attention wisely, they need to limit their leadership agenda to concerns they can potentially influence. The Leadership Circle Map is a simple tool for plotting all of a leader’s relationships to estimate this possible influence.
  • The Leadership Circle Map has four directions. Using the idea of looking 360 degrees around each person, this mapping tool distinguishes between people at different levels within the organizational hierarchy – individuals at higher levels, peers and at lower levels. There is also a broad category of people outside the organization. In using the tool, these general categories need to be interpreted to fit the user’s specific situation.
  • The Leadership Circle Map has three levels. In all four directions, three levels of connection are distinguished – only knowing someone by reputation (periphery), knowing someone personally (outer circle) and knowing someone very closely (inner circle). In practice these three levels are more of a continuum and therefore the user can make a more fine-grained distinction within each level.
  • The Leadership Circle Map is about investing in your circle of influence. Leaders can focus on issues they can already influence, or they can decide they need to strengthen their connections to have more influence on selected issues – called developing your leadership circle. This mapping tool can be used to identify which individuals require extra attention to shift them to a higher level of connection.
Subscribe to our monthly Management Model

Do you want to be notified of our monthly Management Model? Please fill in your email address here.

Publication Schedule

April 2024
Leadership Circle Map

March 2024
MOVING Mission Framework

February 2024
BOLD Vision Framework

January 2024
Duty of Care Feedback Model

December 2023
Best Practice Sharing Modes

November 2023
Stakeholder Stance Map

October 2023
Status Snakes & Ladders

September 2023
Customer-Centricity Circle

August 2023
Activity System Dial

July 2023
New Pyramid Principle

June 2023  
Cultural Fabric Model

May 2023       
Corporate Strategy Framework

April 2023  
Ambition Radar Screen

March 2023
Resistance to Change Typology

February 2023   
5I Innovation Pipeline

January 2023     
Thinking Directions Framework

December 2022      
Corporate Management Styles

November 2022     
Strategic Action Model 

October 2022
Psychological Safety Compass

September 2022
The Tree of Power    

August 2022
Value Proposition Dial

July 2022
Sustainable You Model

June 2022
Change Manager’s Toolbox

May 2022
Corporate Value Creation Model

April 2022
Organizational System Map

March 2022
Creativity X-Factor

February 2022
Strategic Alignment Model

January 2022
Market System Map

December 2021
Team Building Cycle

November 2021
Disciplined Dialogue Model

Oktober 2021
Strategy Hourglass

September 2021
Powerhouse Framework

August 2021
Fruits & Nuts Matrix

July 2021
Everest Model of Change

June 2021
Followership Cycle

May 2021
Knowledge Sharing Bridges

April 2021
Innovation Box

March 2021
Empowerment Cycle

February 2021
Digital Distribution Model Dial

January 2021
Digital Product Model Dial

December 2020
4C Leadership Levers

November 2020
Rebound Model of Resilience

October 2020
Strategic Bets Framework

September 2020
Storytelling Scripts

August 2020
7I Roles of the Corporate Center

July 2020
Strategy Development Cycle

June 2020
Rising Star Framework

May 2020
The Control Panel

April 2020
Strategic Agility Model

March 2020
Leadership Fairness Framework

February 2020
11C Synergy Model

January 2020
Competition Tornado

December 2019
Confidence Quotient

November 2019
House of Engagement

October 2019
Revenue Model Framework

September 2019
Interaction Pressure Gauge

August 2019
Digital Platform Map

July 2019
Mind the Gap Model


Double-click to edit button text. crossarrow-leftcross-circle