The influence of the inner circle

The influence of the inner circle

In recent weeks, a friend from one of my alma maters asked me a question: “If I vote for X, am I actually voting for Y?” X and Y are closely related and associated to each other.

Of course, one cannot help but take a closer look (a second, third, fourth even) at the candidates’ inner circle, not just his working team, but those who are really close to him and those whose opinion carry weight as much as that of the candidates themselves. This information may not be as available or visible as we want it to be, and is dependent on the overall strategy.

I’m culling from John Maxwell’s book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, one excerpt which we can take with us and mull over in the coming days. In this book, the Law of the Inner Circle states that, “a leader’s potential is determined by those closest to him.” Simply put, we are considering those surrounding the individual the support system he has in place – called the inner circle- in establishing this individual’s capability to lead and sustain its leadership in the process. In business, this can be readily seen with the management team supporting the chief executive officer (CEO); in politics, especially prior to a new administration taking over and election campaigns are about to take full swing, this is something that may still have a couple of blind spots, more or less. In personal relationships, we know of the infamous saying – you are the average of the five people you surround yourself with. In the end, we are taught of the same thing, whether in business, personal relationships, or politics: choose wisely.


In the US and with its current administration, it is said that President Joe Biden has about seven trusted aides forming his inner circle – the tight knit group that he solicits inputs often more than the hundreds of other advisors waiting in the wings – and all described as fluent in “Bidenese” in a “Bidenworld.” Semantics become important in this aspect, and is often the differentiator when we talk of access to this kind of relationship.

Inner circle may also change and may not be as permanent, depending on the lifecycle or tenure of power. For example, a business CEO’s inner circle may change as and when executives come and go; in the case of a president, this may be good until the administration’s term.


It also cements the idea that the inner circle imparts with it influence, which allows individuals belonging to that inner circle the ability to create their own spheres (of influence). Taken into macro levels, these spheres of influence can translate to how our policies are later on created, revised, repealed and how relationships locally, regionally and globally are fostered, maintained and sustained.

At this point where we are months away from the official start of the presidential campaigns, it is a good opportunity to start checking out those surrounding our candidates and assess further. Some of the questions highlighted by John Maxwell include:

1. Do they display exemplary character in everything they do?

2. Do they bring complementary gifts to the table? (ie value proposition)

3. Do they hold a strategic position and have an influence within the organization?

4. Do they add value to the organization or to the leader?

5. Do they positively impact other members of the inner circle?


Coming up with your inner circle could be a make or break; bearing in mind John Maxwell’s advice that those close to you determine the level of your success. If you surround yourself with negative people, then chances are you will likely absorb the same energy. Conversely, if you surround yourself with strong leaders then it is a no-brainer that you will be a better leader in the process.

It is in the checking out that makes the difference: after all, when you are voting for X, you are actually voting for Y.

Kay Calpo Lugtu is the chief operating officer of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation firm. She advocates food innovation, security, and sustainability. The author may be reached at