Strategy, Innovation & Leadership

Leadership Circle Map

Door Ron Meyer | 5 april 2024 | 4 min lezen
How can I as a leader map my circle of influence? TIAS professor of Strategic Leadership Ron Meyer presents an insightful tool to kickstart your thinking: Leadership Circle Map.

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. 
leadership circle model

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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.


This six-day Personal Leadership module will teach you how to lead people by establishing a connection. You will learn how to identify the underlying motives of others and how to use this knowledge to shape your leadership. At the same time, you will gain insight into your own motives, leadership styles, strengths and weaknesses. Once you have completed this module, you will know how to use trust, connection, and power in a responsible way to improve the performance of your organization.

Read more about the Personal Leadership module »

Leadership Circle Map is part 58 of a series of management models by prof. dr. Ron Meyer. Ron is managing director of the Center for Strategy & Leadership and publishes regularly on Center for Strategy & Leadership.

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