**This article is inspired by chapter 19 of John C. Maxwell’s book Leadership Gold –
“Be a Connector, Not a Climber”***

There are a variety of leadership styles and throughout history, different styles have been needed for different reasons. However, as people think of the leaders they value most, there are some specific differences.

For instance, Hitler was a leader, but look at the damage he did by trying to exterminate the Jews and take over the world with his Nazi philosophy. Consider the leaders of the Enron corporation. They held leadership positions, but abused their power and damaged thousands of lives due to their corruption. I’m sure you can name countless others who had the position, title, and power but used it improperly and hurt many people. These people were focused on climbing to the top of the success ladder at all costs.

Then there are leaders who have often been unsung heroes. They quietly served their people and looked out for everyone’s best interest as much as they could. They were about developing their followers and helping them grow to achieve their potential. These leaders were focused on connecting with their people and helping others succeed, even if that meant they surpassed them.

So, how do you becoming a connecting leader versus a climbing leader? Consider the following 6 characteristics of connectors:

1 – Connectors Think Horizontal

While climbers are keeping score of who is winning and losing, connectors are focusing on taking people on a journey that leads to success for the team. Look around you. How can you help your people go farther faster? How can you help others succeed individually so the team or organization ultimately wins?

2 – Connectors Focus on Relationships

While climbers are focused on climbing their own success ladder, connectors are focused on building bridges. They see the value in each person they are leading. They don’t see them as cogs in a machine, but rather as valuable human beings who can add value to the organization through their skills, abilities, and insights. Think about your followers. How well do you know them? Are you fully aware of who they are and what value they can add to the team, even if it isn’t specific to their job description?

3 – Connectors Value Cooperation

Climbers seek to win at all costs while connectors see working together as a win. Of course, the goal is for the team to win, not just have a fun time together while losing. No one enjoys being on a losing team, even if they like the people with whom they are losing. However, climbers are the people who may be on a team but act as if they are the only person who matters. As a leader, be a champion for cooperation. Make it a high priority and address selfish individuals quickly who can damage the team chemistry.

4 – Connectors Seek Partnerships

Climbers want the power to climb faster and reach the top quickly. Connectors seek to create a high-powered team through building partnerships with talented team members who complement one another. Climbers get to the top and say “Look what I did.” Connectors get to the top and say “Look what WE did!” For climbers, it’s lonely at the top. For connectors, it’s a celebration with the team when the goal is achieved. Look around and determine who can be a valuable partner to achieve team or organizational goals together.

5 – Connectors Build Consensus

Climbers are often concerned with their own image. They want to receive all the credit. Connectors are more concerned with getting everyone on the same page so they can work together. They work tirelessly to blend various ideas and opinions into an agreed-upon way forward. They recognize that consensus doesn’t mean everyone gets their way, but rather they leave the meeting on the same page and focused on moving forward together as one unit. Do the hard work of hearing each perspective and helping each person hear from others as well. Then, find common ground so the team can confidently move forward.

6 – Connectors Want to Stand Together

Climbers want to distinguish themselves from everyone in the organization. They want to be the hero. This often makes them relationally challenged. Connectors find ways to get closer to other people and find common ground. They are relational leaders who care about others’ success just as much as they care about their own. They often prefer team sports versus individual sports. While you can be successful on your own, it is rare that anything of significance is achieved alone. Even the most successful people in the world have a team of support. Whether they acknowledge it or not is determined by whether they are climbers or connectors.


As you can see, you have a choice to make. Will you be a “climbing leader” who is focused on your own individual advancement or will you be a “connecting leader” who is focused on gathering a team of talented people who go on the journey toward success and significance? Success feels good for a moment but quickly fades. Significance often takes more work and is slower, but it lasts for a lifetime.

The choice is yours.

Choose wisely.

Until next time…make today GREAT!

***If you need help developing a personal growth plan or implementing a leadership development program for your team, please contact me. I’d love to talk with you to determine how I can help!

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