10 LinkedIn LIONs & Super Connectors You MUST Connect With!

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There are many resources on the web for finding people to follow on Twitter.  Just do a search for any particular type of person you want to follow (student entrepreneurs? job seeker advice? etc.) and chances are you will find a list.  But why none for LinkedIn?  Well, just as I have been the first to write on other things LinkedIn-related, I think it is important to introduce people on LinkedIn that I think you should invite and/or connect up with.  These people are either LIONs or “Super Connectors”, people with lots of connections that are open to receiving new invites as well as helping people connect and pay it forward.

The importance of connecting with LIONs and Super Connectors on LinkedIn cannot be understated.

They help you build out the virtual network that you will need for successful Windmill Networking, and it also improves your visibility when searching for others as well as when they search for you.

Now, I do need to point out that LinkedIn caps the number of connections you can have at 30,000.  So those people below that have over 30,000 connections can receive your invite but cannot accept it.  I still think it is worth sending an invite with an introductory paragraph about yourself in the hopes that someday this limit will be lifted and they will be able to accept your invitation.  After all, the new LinkedIn Search now allows you to not only sort by connections but also to see the number of connections above 500 someone might have instead of that old “500+” text.  This is a very welcome modification and gives us all hope that the limitation on the number of connections will be lifted soon.

As a final disclaimer, I am personally connected to all of these people but have yet to meet any of them.  That being said, I have had various communications with each of the people I recommend either directly or indirectly.  When you send them your invite let them know that Neal Schaffer of Windmill Networking sent ‘ya 😉

(guide: Name – Worldwide Ranking – # of Connections – Location)

Ron Bates – #1 – 41,000+ Connections (San Francisco)

Ron Bates is a retained executive search expert and is also the most connected person on LinkedIn.  Perhaps it is his proximity to LinkedIn headquarters in the Bay Area that helped him along the way, but Ron is a great person who I happened to hear speak on a free webinar for executive job seekers several months ago.  Intelligent and passionate, if your company is looking for a retained executive recruiter or if you are an executive looking for guidance, Ron is your man to connect with.

Steven Burda – #4 – 37,000+ Connections (Philadelphia)

Steven is currently employed at The Boeing Company in a financial analysis and management role.  But he is better known for being the “Mother Teresa of Networking.”  Some people love him, others hate him, but I can tell you from my personal experience that Steven is the ultimate pay-it-forward Windmill Networker.  He has been featured in the press of saying controversial things about LinkedIn’s practices and limitations, but like myself, I can not think of anyone else out there who evangelizes LinkedIn more than Steven does.  And, if you don’t believe me, look at the 2,000+ recommendations he has from real people that have been touched by him.  Please reach out to him and experience the warmth of his connection yourself.  If you think that Steven can ever help you, ask him, as I am sure that he will take the time out of his busy schedule to listen and lend a helping hand 😉

Marc Freedman – #5 – 31,000+ Connections (Dallas)

I have never met Marc but I have heard the fascinating interview he had on Stan Relihan’s Connections Show.  Some of you who have been around on LinkedIn hopefully remember the original MyLink500.com database, which allowed us all to openly add our information to a huge database of LinkedIn users for the purpose of open networking (this has now been moved to http://mylinknetwork.com).  Marc is also the founder of the Dallas Blue LinkedIn Group, which has over 25,000 members and has traditionally been one of the largest LinkedIn Groups.  And if that wasn’t enough he also created the excellent MyLinkWiki which contains loads of documentation about LinkedIn.  The amazing thing is that this is someone who apparently had his 20,000+ connections LinkedIn account removed for “spamming” (he was trying to raise money for charity) and then rebuilt it from scratch to be the #5 most connected person on LinkedIn today!  Amazing!

Stacy Donovan Zapar – #9 – 29,000+ Connections (San Diego)

Stacy is located just an hour away from me in sunny San Diego and yet we have never had a chance to meet.  She is in the recruiting industry, but more importantly she brands herself as a “Pay It Forward Open Networker”, a fundamental characteristic of Windmill Networking.  I have recommended friends in San Diego who were in transition to contact her, and she has answered every one of their emails and phone calls.  Stacy, I hope to meet you some day!

Shally Steckerl – #13 – 28,000+ Connections (Atlanta)

Shally is a leading recruitment speaker and consultant, and he is also Chief Cyber Sleuth of what used to be called The Job Machine and is now called Arbita.  I subscribe to his newsletters because he truly is a pioneer in using the Internet to source for candidates.  If you are in transition, doesn’t it interest you to see how recruiters “source” or find you on the Internet?   Reading the annoucements of the webinars that he does for recruiters blows my mind.  Definitely on the leading edge of understanding social media for recruiting and a must person to connect with.

Christian Mayaud – #26 – 24,000+ Connections (New York City)

Christian is the founder of a Venture Capital firm.  But more importantly, he is the founder of the original Linkedin LION Group.  What else can I add?  He is the grandfather of the LinkedIn Open Networking movement.  Please pay him your respect.

Thomas Power – #27 – 23,000+ Connections (United Kingdom)

Thomas is the Chairman of Ecademy, one of the premier social networking sites for business people with 500,000+ members worldwide.  I have exchanged some tweets with Thomas on Twitter, but it is the power of Ecademy that makes his connection so valuable.  I once met an entrepreneur from New Zealand in Japan who was on a several week tour of Asia looking for partners.  He was able to attain all of his appointments and meet many people solely through networking on Ecademy!  Ecademy is a place where there is some serious Windmill Networking occurring, and Thomas is at the helm.  Please connect with him and check out Ecademy as well.

Barack Obama – #28 – 23,000+ Connections (Washington D.C.)

That’s right, President Obama, the first President of the Social Media era has a presence on LinkedIn.  He doesn’t seem to be very active on LinkedIn, but you have to admit he has a busy job.  Will he answer your messages?  Probably not.  But wouldn’t it be cool to have the President as your connection?  I thought so.  Heck, I even wrote a blog post last year regarding how to connect with Barack Obama.  Let me know if that address doesn’t work anymore, OK?

Stan Relihan – #30 – 22,000+ Connections (Sydney, Australia)

It was a sad day when I heard that Stan was no longer going to be doing his Connections Show podcast.  This is someone who I got to know through my ipod and his frequent podcast, and I truly have learned a lot about social networking, Web 2.0, and LinkedIn from him.  Stan, by the way, is a headhunter and is Asia-Pacific’s most connected person.  Whenever I meet someone from Sydney, I always ask if they have ever met Stan, and I always get the “Yes!” answer.  He is a great guy who completely understands the value of Windmill Networking…I do hope to have a chance to meet him someday!

Neal Schaffer – #60 – 16,000+ Connections (Orange County)

OK.  We are probably already connected, but just in case 😉  And if you want to find out the latest on Windmill Networking and find other people that share value in open networking, building out large virtual networks and digging wells before they’re thirsty, please join my spanking new Windmill Networking LinkedIn Group.  Yeah, I know, not so many members yet, but once we all get plugged into the same grid I am confident it will grow and provide tremendous value to all of us!

The minute I post this, some of you are going to start recommending other LIONs & Super Connectors that did not make my list.  I welcome all suggestions!  If you want to be on this list, I do plan to post updates, so please, connect and communicate with me!  I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy Networking Everyone!

Note: It has been brought up to my attention that Barack Obama is no longer open to receiving invitations…

Neal Schaffer
The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professionals strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer


Author, @MaxYourSocial | Founder @msocialbusiness & @socialtoolssmmt | Trilingual Social Media Strategy Consultant, Coach, and Speaker
I liked a @YouTube video from @jamietshanks http://t.co/AluPNT0dFd Social Selling Summit - Neal Schaffer (Sept. 1st, 2015) - 38 mins ago
Neal Schaffer


  1. says

    Nice! I didn’t know there was even a ranking or list. The windmill Theory is pretty neat to know about – definitely this day and age’s tech trend.

    • Neal Schaffer says

      Hey Dianne,

      Thanks for stopping by! Windmill Networking is a concept that hopefully everyone will see value in. More details coming soon!

      – Neal

  2. says

    Nice! I didn’t know there was even a ranking or list. The windmill Theory is pretty neat to know about – definitely this day and age’s tech trend.

    • Neal Schaffer says

      Hey Dianne,

      Thanks for stopping by! Windmill Networking is a concept that hopefully everyone will see value in. More details coming soon!

      – Neal

  3. drbrucehoag says

    Barack Obama's link doesn't work anymore. You have to have his actual email address, which I imagine is a fairly well-guarded secret. :)

    Cheers, Bruce

  4. Annette Hope Brewster says

    I don't believe in “good old boy” networks, anymore than playing political games. On linkedin when we invite individuals we are required to check how we know these people. When one checks worked together, and name the company we worked together with, and these people that play this good old boy network and click “I don't know” rather than “archive” isn't it LinkedIn's responsiblity to weed out the trash of liers since they can verify on these people's profiles that they are flat out lying? Instead they “ding” the sender of the invitation and lock down the account of the inviter stating they “exceeded” their limits of invitations.

    If you took the time to verify both Ray Wagnon and David Bones (both reside in San Antonio, Tx) both worked at Inter-Tel (which is now a Mitel Corporation since Mitel bought out Inter-Tel) you would see the dates of their employment with this company is equal to or greater than mine. Yet you excuse them from their lies, and you advise me I am inviting people I don't know? This is absolutely absurd! If they want to play their games of deception and lies, this is their political scrutiny, not mine to be penalized for. I think its up to LinkedIn's customer service or whomever checks these invites to validate the liars within this network and put a hold on their account for wrongfully selecting I dont know rather than archive if they opted not to accept my invite. This is abuse of your policy, they should in my professional opinion wear the burdon of proof and be penalized, not I!

    I have 631 outstanding invites, as a LION, it is not within my control as to when fellow LIONS log onto linkedIn and accept invites, or to control when they should. Again, being locked out by linkedIn rather than confirm these people are a part of a group named LION which in their own rules we are allowed to connect to other LIONS that are in a shared group.

    So LinkedIn, please explain why you aren't playing by your own rules, rather than making new rules?

    Futhermore, to tell me I have reached my level of invites, again, I have no control of when people log in and when they accept invites, being how my open invites are with fellow LIONS. I look forward to you bringing a solution to this negative experience I encounter since I use LinkedIn for business and this lock down is suffocating my professional growth.

  5. says

    Hi Annette,

    Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. I believe that you brought up two very serious issues here:

    1) The way that LinkedIn always penalizes the person who is reported upon, not the potentially inappropriate reporter, is a big issue that I have seen a lot of misuse of recently. It doesn't take any people to have ones Question removed from LinkedIn Answers or even penalize someone's LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn really needs to start looking at those who report others and look into the validity of what they are saying. At the present it doesn't look like they are doing a good of this…

    2) The LION issue is one of my own pet peeves, as there is no guarantee that a LION will accept your invitation. The only thing that LIONs should be agreeing to do is to never respond with an “IDK” or “I Don't Know” response. The LION movement is not governed by LinkedIn nor anyone else, so we really are at risk when we invite someone that we don't know, although inviting a LION is usually the safest and most effective way of growing your LinkedIn network.

    I realize that my comments don't help your situation, but I do sympathize with what you are going through and hope things work out for the best.

    – Neal

  6. says

    Awesome list, Neal. Lots of research and time you put into this information. And you freely pay it forward ! Nice. I am going to post a link to this on my free job coaching blog, http://www.the50over50project.wordpress.com. That way, those following my blog (“millions” less than you have) can learn about the value of (windmill) networking!

    Paul David Madsen
    America's Job Coach and author of “Laid Off & Loving It for 2010″

  7. allandynes says

    Hello Neal.What a priviledge is to view your website.It has the imformation about linkedin i was looking for.You have filled in an enormous imformation void which i was suffering from.Iam on your newsletter subscribers list,as well,will make connection on twitter&linkedin.Bravo Neal,you have broke it down in laymans terms for me and i now consider you to be a very valuable resource.

  8. allandynes says

    Hello Neal.What a priviledge is to view your website.It has the imformation about linkedin i was looking for.You have filled in an enormous imformation void which i was suffering from.Iam on your newsletter subscribers list,as well,will make connection on twitter&linkedin.Bravo Neal,you have broke it down in laymans terms for me and i now consider you to be a very valuable resource.

  9. says

    Thanks for sharing these ideas Neal. Networking is such a vital part of any sales system, it is hard to believe that only 25 years ago we had to send all direct marketing out by hand. Imagine the cost of maintaining 100,000 list back then, thank goodness for progress. Wonderful tips. Thanks agian

    Phil Polson

  10. Kevin Bryce says


    Thanks for sharing this information. LinkedIN will continue to garner accolades for its ability to connect individuals, effectively build business networks and provide timely and essential information. Giving a quick background of the individuals you reference is much appreciated. Many thanks.

    Kevin Bryce

  11. says

    How can I find an updated and longer list? Not all of the people listed in this post seem relevant to me. For example, why would I, an engineer, link to somebody who teaches recruiters? Writing a convincing invitation to connect is not a trivial task when you have nothing in common. I think it would be a better use of my time to go lower in the list to find more relevant contacts. So, is it possible to find a longer list that isn’t several years old? Thank you.

    • says

      Hi Rich, unfortunately I have not revised this list nor is there a longer list available. My advice for you would be to do searches on LinkedIn and look for those with lots of mutual connections. That is a hint that they are open to new connections, and it also gives you a good way to “break the ice” with them since you know so many in common. Hope the advice helps!

  12. Jonathan says

    It’s important to note that LinkedIn has since imposed a restriction preventing anyone with over 30,000 to accept new connections. With the exception of Neal Schaeffer, pretty much everybody on this list now have well over 30,000 connections. So they won’t be able to accept new invitations (although they can still send them). Steven Burda is a case of his own. Not only he can’t accept new invitations but he also can’t send out new ones.

    • says

      Hey Jonathan, thanks for commenting! Actually, when I wrote my first LinkedIn book back in 2009 that restriction was already in place, although many didn’t know about it. I prune my connections to keep them under 30,000. I don’t think it requires 30,000 connections to use LinkedIn effectively, and I certainly don’t think you need to connect with 30,000 open networkers! Every person that sends me an invite from reading this blog post I accept, and some people on this list have thanked me for the introductions. Although it has never been made public, I have heard from ONE person with 30,000+ connections that they were actually able to go over 30,000 if they were from people that they invited … however, there is an obvious limitations on number of invitations you can receive. In perspective, both Facebook and Google Plus only allow you to friend/circle 5,000 people, so 30,000 isn’t too bad, right? 😉

      • Jonathan says

        Many people will tell you that you don’t even need 500 connections to use LinkedIn effectively. And they’re right. You’ll notice that many VPs, CEOs and other top executives have as little as 200-300 connections and sometimes less.

        I personally have 1500 connections and that’s fine with me. Nevertheless, I still think LinkedIn could improve its customer service by doubling the limit of connections to 60,000, given that many users are unsatisfied with the 30,000 limit. The number of users has increased a lot since 2009 and LinkedIn should therefore update itself. But I do believe there should always be at least a limit imposed in order to keep some control on the site. So to summarize, the idea of a limit is not bad as long as LinkedIn is willing to revise its number every 3-5 years instead of sticking infinitely to the 30,000 rule.

  13. GEON says

    I would rather establish relationships than collect connections. This is not a very good way to create a connection, with a single click and an non-edited message.

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