Circle or Clique?: How your support team can help or harm your career

[Mar 9:38-40 NIV] 38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” 39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us..

[Mat 17:1 NIV] 1 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. (emphasis mine) 

“We all need somebody to lean on,” says Bill Withers in his classic hit “Lean on Me”.

Every creative person needs a close group of loyal supporters. Whether they are artistic partners, business advisors, or close friends, these people make our careers easier, richer and more meaningful. They make up our inner circle.

According to Kayne West, no clique is better than his. That's up for debate.

According to Kayne West, no clique is better than his. That’s up for debate.

However, some circles go beyond supporting the artist, and focus on keeping everyone else out of the circle. When that happens, it’s no longer an inner circle. It becomes a clique.

Merriam Webster defines a clique as ‘a small group of people who spend time together and who are not friendly to other people.’ 

Jesus demonstrated how to maintain an inner circle without forming a clique. He had three disciples that were closest to him: Peter, James and John. They received more attention and access than the other disciples. Clearly, Jesus valued the companionship of this exclusive group of brothers.

However, Jesus gave people every opportunity to join his larger team.

He readily accepted other groups of disciples, even if they weren’t physically present with Him. He rebuked his disciples when they turned people away, and he chastised them when they created rivalries within their ranks.  In contrast, the Pharisees, who considered themselves guardians of morality, made joining their group practically impossible. They made rules that only they could follow, and spent most of their time pointing out the flaws in other people.

Duccio di Buoninsegna -

“Appearance on the Mountain in Galilee”, Duccio di Buoninsegna

We all need an inner circle. However, we can never allow our behavior toward others to become cliquish. While we should value and protect our inner circle, rejecting new relationships for the sake of appearances will damage our careers and reputations. If your supporters talk more about haters than they talk about lifting up and encouraging others, you may be forming a clique.

Here are five characteristics that make up an authentic support team.

Healthy Support Teams:

  1. See the artist as a person, not a product,
  2. Provide social,  spiritual, emotional, and sometimes musical or financial support,
  3. Help to promote the artist,
  4. Encourage the artist to be creative, and
  5. Build the artist’s network by supporting the greater community of artists. 

In contrast, unhealthy cliques do four negative things:

  1. See the artist as a product to be protected, rather than a person to be encouraged, 
  2. Drain the artist of energy by creating negative influences,
  3. Develop a sense of entitlement, and
  4. Heavily criticize other groups or artists.

Remember, the growth of your career depends on your grace toward others. Make sure your closest allies show grace to those outside your circle, while also encouraging and inspiring you.

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