Connectional Intelligence: Which Type of Connector Are You?

By Marshall Goldsmith

I’m excited to interview my wonderful friend Erica Dhawan. Erica is the Founder & CEO of Cotential and the world’s authority on Connectional Intelligence. Named by Thinkers50 as “The Oprah of Management Ideas”, Erica is featured as one of the emerging management thinkers most likely to shape the future of business. She’s also one of the Marshall Goldsmith 100 Coaches. In this week’s interview, Erica is going to share with us the three types of Connectors as she defines them in her book, Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence. Below is an excerpt from our interview.

Marshall: I’m here with Erica Dhawan, one of the great thinkers of our time and one of the 50 top leaders of the future in terms of influencing thought around the world. Erica, I love the work you are doing in Connectional Intelligence. You identify three types of Connectional Intelligence, or Connectors, can you explain that?

Erica: Absolutely! Ten years ago, Malcolm Gladwell coined this concept of a connector as one of the three types of people that create the rise of social epidemics. This idea revolutionized teams around the world and how we build this connector skillset at work.

In today’s era, we’re not just connected, though, we’re overconnected. The average amount of time we spend on email and online meetings is growing exponentially. What I’ve found in my research is that in today’s world, it’s not about being a connector. It’s about how we connect intelligently with our resources.

What I’ve found is that there are three types of connectors you need to lead dream teams today.

  1. The first type of connector is a thinker. Thinkers are great at connecting around ideas. They know how to bring together different ideas. They have a lot of curiosity and courage to think in new ways.
  2. The second type of connector is the enabler. Enablers are the awesome community builders. They know how to bring together all the right people. They are more of your traditional networking types.
  3. The third type of connector is the executor. These are the people who are great at mobilizing.

So, think about it: once you have an idea (thinker), you get the right people (enabler), and you mobilize and turn it into action (executor). And, it’s not about being the best at all of these yourself, it’s about designing a team that leverages your style as a leader.

One of my favorite examples of this is from a woman named Jeannie Peeper. When Jeannie was four, she was diagnosed with a very rare disease called FOP. She spent 20 years going from doctor to doctor trying to diagnose this illness. She finally met a doctor who had seen 18 patients with the disease, and she decided not just to be treated by the doctor, but to reach out.

Jeannie is an enabler. She reached out to every single patient and created the first ever knowledge network for patients with the disease. Today, the network is teaching doctors, medical researchers, and university professionals how to diagnose this illness, because Jeannie understood her style and created a network of people with different skills to address FOB.

What I recommend is that everyone better understand their own style and be mindful of tapping into the diversity of their network and skills that are different than theirs as they are building teams to get big things done.

Marshall: I love what you are doing! Let me give you my personal reflection. I see myself as a thinker and enabler, but not much of an executor. I don’t like to manage anything. I have only two problems with management – one is I have not ability, and the second is that I have even less motivation. The key is to find people who are great at what I’m not great at. I love your model because you don’t have to be good at everything, just know what you are good at, what you do like doing, and then find others who compliment your skills.

Erica: Exactly. Knowing how to find the answer, how to find the resources, is more important than having them yourself. And, that’s really the quotient in today’s world. It’s being that dot connector instead of thinking we’re going to be knowledgeable about everything.

Marshall: Wonderful! Thank you!


If you want to learn more about Connectional Intelligence from Erica check out her new online course on Udemy, Get Big Things Done: Become a Standout Collaborator.


Our new book, Work Is Love Made Visible: A Collection of Essays about the Power of Finding Your Purpose from the World’s Greatest Thought Leaders, edited by Frances Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith, and Sarah McArthur was published October 23, 2018. The #1 New Release in Business Management on Amazon,Work Is Love Made Visible is available now on Amazon and!

Marshall Goldsmith Meme
Linkedin Facebook Icon-twitter Instagram


Marshall Goldsmith Meme