A mastermind group involves regularly meeting with a group of selected peers – often from different organisations or fields – to share thoughts on business issues, and to tackle challenges and problems together.

It’s invaluable for personal and professional development – and I believe it has great potential for accelerating leadership development for professionals, especially in the field of global development.



What is a mastermind group?

The concept of mastermind groups was popularised by Napoleon Hill – first mentioned in his book, The Law of Success (1925), and described in more detail in his 1937 book, Think and Grow Rich. He said, “No two minds ever come together without thereby creating a third, invisible, intangible force, which may be likened to a third mind” – that is, the Master Mind.

He knew that extremely successful businessmen and inventors, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone met regularly in a formal “Mastermind Alliance,” to conduct creative brainstorming on their businesses, multiplying their capacity for thinking and ideas, by talking together.

Hill refers to a mastermind (group) as “a friendly alliance with one or more persons who will encourage one to follow through with both plan and purpose.”

A group of talented people support each other, advise, network, share connections and, sometimes, do business with one another. It’s a bit like mutual peer mentoring.

Some mastermind groups are led by extremely successful business-people – celebrity entrepreneurs, even – who generally charge huge amounts of money for this service, and anyone who can afford the fee is eligible to join. Others are created by individual leaders, colleagues or friends, who form a select group – and members join by invitation only.


What are the benefits?

A mastermind group provides support, advice and accountability to each member, greatly enhancing and increasing their professional development and personal growth.

There are many reasons to join a mastermind group, and numerous benefits:

Advice & problem-solving – You can use the group as a sounding-board, discussing your challenges and brainstorming solutions; giving and receiving advice; solving problems and making decisions.

Support – You have a valuable network of knowledgeable supporters surrounding you, enabling you to give confidential mutual support – theoretical, practical, professional, and emotional; share experiences and challenges, or learn from one another.

Accountability – If you articulate your vision, goals, plans and intentions – they are out in the world, and there’s an unwritten commitment to see them through. Other members of the group will check that you’re putting your words into action, ask how you’re progressing, and hold you accountable. This motivates you to do what you say you will!


Collaboration – Sharing ideas and discussion often results in shared projects and working in partnership with other individuals. Collaboration increases capacity and improves outcomes.

Professional development – Individual knowledge, skills, and experience are increased through the collective. Different views and fresh perspectives are shared, to broaden everyone’s outlook, providing possibilities beyond your own experience.

 Networking – Developing closer, stronger relationships with fellow mastermind members can increase your contact list, exponentially expanding your network and potential referrals, and growing your business.

Innovation – A laboratory to learn and experiment; to brainstorm ideas and improvements; to find best practices for driving innovation and adopting new practices, processes and technologies.

Performance – This methodology has been proven to hugely accelerate your performance and results. Stimulation and challenge from peers will take you far outside your comfort zone, getting you to think bigger and to aim higher. You will see a transformation – in yourself and your business.

Sharing thoughts and experiences and providing accountability all have incredible value, and masterminds are proven to accelerate personal growth and professional success.

How do they work?

Mastermind groups bring together skilled and experienced people – or high-flyers – for regular meetings to use their collective capacity for problem-solving on individuals’ business challenges.

They usually comprise of more than two people, but the group should not be so large that it’s unwieldy, since everyone needs to contribute. So, 4-8 people is ideal.

You can either join an established group – if invited personally, or if you pay for the privilege – or, start your own.

Dorie Clark offers useful suggestions for how to set up a mastermind group, in her Harvard Business Review article. This involves:

  • deciding on the kinds of people you want to meet up with. Will they be leaders in the same industry, or in different ones? Entrepreneurs? Development professionals? High-flying business names and thought-leaders? Will you have a theme – like ‘Finance’ or ‘Global Goals’?
  • selecting your individual members carefully and inviting them – or asking them to undergo an application process. Either only invite people you know and trust or create a screening and vetting process. Include informal meetings to check people out and ensure that the group dynamics will work, before you commit to them joining you permanently. It might be hard to remove them, otherwise!)
  • setting down ground rules. Clarify your expectations for conduct and processes. E.g. any responsibilities, confidentiality, commitment, acceptability of ‘selling’ to one another, or fees.
  • establishing a structure for the meetings. E.g. do you meet monthly, weekly, quarterly? In person, or by conference call – e.g. Zoom, or Skype? Will you have a leader or facilitator? Will there be a standard agenda or format – introductions and round-table discussion of everyone’s issues, or hot-seating and discussing one individual’s issues, each meeting? Or will you be more informal?



Aristotle said that “the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts”. This is the basis of a mastermind group and its power for personal and professional leadership development.

Motivational speaker and writer, Jim Rohn, says we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Therefore, meeting with people equally successful as (or more successful than) yourself will help you to greater success.

Mastermind groups combine peer mentoring, advising and provision of a mutual success team, and I strongly encourage its use in leadership development as a perfect accompaniment to leadership coaching and mentoring.



If you feel that you or your organisation would benefit from leadership development, including coaching and mentoring, please get in touch to explore the possibilities open to you. I look forward to hearing from you!

We’re piloting a programme of one-to-one mentoring – Mentoring Exchanges – that matches established, experienced leaders and managers (as mentors) with mentees in development organisations that do not normally have resources for in-house development opportunities. If you’re interested, please get in touch.


If you would like to, please download my coaching programme brochure – Women’s Leadership Coaching – For Women in Development – specifically designed for women working in global development.

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