People talk about the negative effects of peer pressure, but positive peer pressure is an essential component of becoming the best leader you can be.

Positive peer pressure is that pressure we feel to step up our game. We might feel it in the gym when we are on a treadmill or rowing machine and noticing the efforts of the person next to us makes us move just a little faster or dig a little deeper. It can happen when we see someone really “put together” and looking sharp for a meeting and that inspires us to upgrade a wardrobe.

Positive peer pressure can show up in work too, like a leader who sees other leaders giving serious thought to “people topics” that he may not have given much attention to before.

Good peers can make us better.

They can help expose us to new ways of thinking. They can infect us with their optimism and confidence. They can help us to consider better habits. They can help us try just a little bit harder. They can keep us accountable.

Are your peers pushing you in positive ways?

Here are three things you can do to improve as a leader through positive peer pressure:

Improve the quality of your peer circles. Find people who inspire you to do better. Seek out people who have achieved more or are performing at a higher level than you. Don’t just stick with people who make you feel good about yourself in comparison. You can find peers in all sorts of places like industry groups, non-profit boards, hobby groups (like car clubs, hiking clubs, or sports), and alumni groups. Many churches have groups for business leaders. You can join a professionally run group for a fee or you might find one sponsored by a local bank. (I run groups in both of these scenarios.)

Ask your peers for specific help. People cannot help you if you keep your needs a secret or if you are not specific in your requests. You might ask a peer how they got that board position. You might ask them how they come across as so polished in their presentations. You might let a peer know you really admire their time management and want to be better at that too.

Keep consistent contact. Don’t just rely on occasional meetings. Keep things consistent. Check in with people on a regular basis with monthly or bi-monthly lunches. Schedule frequent zoom calls. Join a group with a regular calendar of meetings. We don’t get in shape by working out or eating well when we feel like it. We need regular contact. (This is one key advantage of formalized organized groups.)

One clear lesson from the pandemic is that people do not thrive in isolation. Give thought to maximize the amount of quality influence from peers that inspire you. Without careful attention to our peers, we risk not only isolation, but possible deterioration of performance.