linkedin lion email list

20 LinkedIn LIONs & Super Connectors You MUST Connect With!

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 who to connect with on 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.  The people on this LinkedIn LION list are either a LinkedIn LION 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 LinkedIn LIONs and Super Connectors on LinkedIn cannot be understated.

LinkedIn LIONs help you build out the virtual network that you will need for LinkedIn 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 LinkedIn LIONs listed 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.

As a final disclaimer, I am personally connected to all of these people but when I originally wrote this post I  had yet to meet any of these LinkedIn LION listed people. That being said, I have had various communications with each of the people I recommend either directly or indirectly, and over time have had the chance to personally meet in person 4 of these LinkedIn LIONS!  When you send them your invite let them know that Neal Schaffer sent ‘ya ;-)

(guide: LinkedIn LION list 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 ;-) There are many who rant against LinkedIn LIONs, but if you were to have a conversation with Steven you would see a completely different side of the picture…

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 podcast.  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.

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

Stacy is located just an hour away from me in sunny San Diego and I have had the honor of meeting her for lunch locally here in Orange County on multiple occasions.  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.

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 announcements 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 LIONs 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 ;-)

Some time after publishing the above post I added 10 more LinkedIn LIONs I recommend you connect with to the LinkedIn LION list, so here they are!

Note that the following LinkedIn LION list members are all based in the United States and industry stats are based on U.S. rankings as of the time writing this post:

1. Gerald Haman – #9 – in United States

Gerald is better known as the “Solutionman” on LinkedIn as well as the creator of tens of “Innovator” LinkedIn Groups, including his largest “Innovative Marketing, PR, Sales, Word-of-Mouth & Buzz Innovators” which has over 100,000 members and is at present the 14th largest group on LinkedIn.  Gerald is also an adjunct professor of innovation at Northwestern University, but he is most famous for the company he founded called SolutionPeople.  He is recognized by clients as “Solutionman” because of his ability to quickly help people develop breakthrough solutions. Since launching SolutionPeople in 1989, Haman has helped clients generate more than three million ideas valued at over two billion dollars.  SolutionPeople has helped over 160 of the Fortune 500 companies and customers in 26 countries.  One person I’d love to have a chat with someday at a Starbucks…

2. Thubten Comerford – #65 in United States

Thubten is someone that I am proud to say I had a chance to meet last year in Portland, Oregon.  Someone who has deep spiritual experience (his past experience includes being an ordained monk for a Tibetan temple) as he does a successful track record in business, Thubten is one of the most genuinely nice and caring individuals you will be lucky to meet.  A social media consultant, he is one of the LinkedIn LIONs you should definitely check out should you have a chance to get to Portland.

3. Gary Zukowski – #78 in United States

Another top connector who I have had the chance to meet is Gary Zukowski.  We both presented at the Gov 2.5 conference put on Bob Fine, who’s social media case studies book I contributed to.  I had a chance to hear the whole history of Gary’s company, TweetMyJOBS, came into existence as well as how Gary himself is personally trying to help so many through their job search by paying it forward in a variety of ways.  TweetMyJOBS, by the way, is the largest Job Board and Recruiting Solution on Twitter.  With worldwide presence, it is said to be the most effective solution to reach candidates in the twittersphere.  Connect with Gary, then check out his website.

4. Chris Brogan – #19 in Marketing and Advertising

Chris and I seem to always miss each other, because whenever he’s in Orange County I’m out of town!  I assume that you already know who Chris Brogan is, so I believe no introduction is necessary.  Although I haven’t had a chance to engage with Chris on LinkedIn, I have had the chance to tweet with him a few times where he clearly pointed out that he was a “promiscuous connector” on LinkedIn.  After reading a lot of Chris’ blog posts on LinkedIn, I think he is a closet Windmill Networker ;-)  Regardless, Chris is a genuinely intelligent and awesome open networker who you would be foolish not to want to be part of you network.  Chris, that offer to send you my book is still on, by the way ;-)

5. Chris Perry – #32 in Marketing and Advertising

Career Rocketeer is one of the leading personal branding and job search blogs that exist.  The site was founded and run by Chris Perry, and Chris is one of the brightest Gen Y branding strategists out there.  Connect up with Chris and check out his website for the latest career tips.  I personally look forward to meeting him for the first time next time I am in the Big Apple.

6. Olivier Taupin – #6 in Internet

Linked:HR is the largest of the more than 850,000 LinkedIn Groups that exist, boasting a membership of over 350,000 professionals.  If you have ever created your own social media community, you can only imagine that this was not an easy task.  I have never had the chance to meet or speak to Olivier, but I plan to be in Seattle this summer and hope to have the chance to have a cup of java with him at Pike’s Place Square and absorb his knowledge.

7. Christopher Penn – #44 in Internet

I have never met Christopher in real life but feel like I have already had lots of conversations with him through his newsletters.  Chris Brogan recently wrote a blog post on newsletters that he’d pay for, and Christopher’s was one of them.  His newsletter also influenced the recent revamping of my own which earned me my highest click-through rate ever!  If you haven’t joined my own social media strategy newsletter you should, but more importantly you HAVE to join Christopher’s newsletter, which covers advice on all things marketing and social media, if you are a reader of this blog.  Christopher’s a true open networker who even goes out of his way on each newsletter to include the following text:

As always, if we’re connected on LinkedIn, I will gladly forward any job connection request to anyone else in my network that I can help you reach.

I haven’t met Christopher yet, but seeing how popular of a speaker he is, I’m sure I’ll be meeting him sometime soon somewhere in the near future…

8. Jay Deragon – #34 in Online Media

The name Jay Deragon might seem familiar to you if you remember my post on 10 new social medial bloggers to follow in 2011 which mentioned him.  He reached out to me for the first time after publishing that post, and I realized that Jay is on a mission to change the way we all fly with an exciting new venture called Social Flights.  I won’t go into details here, but Jay is an incredibly intelligent, savvy and thought-leading social media strategist who I highly recommend you connect with as well.

9. Vincent Wright – #80 in Online Media

Vincent Wright is the founder of one of earliest Yahoo Group communities created for professionals on LinkedIn who wanted to engage in active open networking. Vincent is someone who has personally touched the lives of many networkers in a positive way, and when I reached out to him recently knowing that I was going to be in his home base of Hartford, CT, he responded to me as if we had known each other for years even though we have never met.  Vincent reminds me of how real the people are behind so many LinkedIn profiles…

10. Miles Austin -#32 in Professional Training & Coaching

Although Miles and I have never met, a discussion in a LinkedIn Group prompted a phone call from him as if we were childhood friends.  This gave us the opportunity to get to know each other, and allowed me the opportunity to understand how Miles is helping so many businesses through his consulting and speaking with effectively maximizing their use of web tools (his nickname is “The Web Tools Guy”), one of them being social media.  In fact, Miles is recognized as one of the leading authorities on web tools for sales and marketing success.  Miles is for real and is a great example of an open networker who is both intelligent and understands the value of being open and connecting with others.

The minute I post this, some of you are going to start recommending other LinkedIn LIONs & Super Connectors that did not make my list.  I welcome all suggestions!  If you want to be on this LinkedIn LIONs 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…

Hero photo by Leonard von Bibra on Unsplash

LinkedIn Lion List FAQs

How do I find LIONs on LinkedIn?

Finding LIONs on LinkedIn is easy using an advanced search. Just type in “lion” on the search bar and LinkedIn will give you the list. If you want a more specific search just include the keyword of your target industry — like “lawyer lion”, or “Harvard lion”. In addition, you can search for LION groups in the group’s section.

What does LION stand for on LinkedIn?

LION on LinkedIn stands for Linked In Open Networker. These people are open to connecting with people they have never met before. LIONS are created to at least minimize the “I Don’t Know” response since they can generally accept invites from anyone. They help closed networks grow to each other and make LinkedIn a great networking community.

What is a LinkedIn open networker?

LinkedIn Open Networker, also known as LION is someone who accepts all invitations that they receive. A lion will connect with you even if you don’t know him/her personally. Users choose to be a lion to maximize optimize their reach and visibility in the platform. But there are still other ways to build your network without being a lion.

Who is the most followed person on LinkedIn?

Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft is the most followed person on LinkedIn with 30,866,167 followers. Followed by Richard Branson, the founder, and CEO of Virgin Group with 18,051,334 followers.

What does LION mean after someone’s name?

If you see users who have LION after their names on LinkedIn, it means they are open networkers. They accept invites from someone who they don’t personally know. Lions do this to grow their LinkedIn network. If you are a LION, you should not turn down an invitation by clicking “IDK” or spam, or else you will incur penalties.

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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.
Articles: 197

48 Comments

  1. Hi Neal
    It was a very informative article highlighting the significance of being connected with the top profiles.
    I would be very glad to be connected with you, have a sent a personal message
    Look forward to you as an inspiration

  2. mdnc100 how did you get to 19,436 , linked in is limiting access at 4,000 so they stop you if you don’t purchase premium? I’m still learning how to maximize linked in before I begin connecting with others that I need to tailor my connections with to share my brand. etc..

  3. Hi Neal – Is there a specific LinkenIn Lions group or Super Connector grouop you recommend joining?

    • Nope Sharon! Personally, I think the “real” LION movement is unfortunately dead … it has been hijacked by others …

    • There have been people who have lobbied in the past – but in the grand scheme of things, is it that big of a problem?

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    • 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? ;-)

      • 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.

  6. 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.

    • 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!

  7. This was a wonderful piece of information. I am connecting will all these guys. Thanks a million!

  8. How can you connect with them when LinkedIn doesn’t allow to connect with people you don’t know?

    • It is true that LinkedIn doesn’t want you to connect with people you don’t know; however, some of us choose to be more open than others. The choice is yours!

      • Thanks for the feedback…and like your comment, “some of us choose to be more open than others. The choice is yours!”.

  9. Neal,

    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
    http://www.kevinbryce.com

  10. That’s why I tell everyone that LinkedIn is such a godsend. What did we all do before it existed?!?!?

  11. 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

  12. Thanks Saul…I'll have to put this list together for those great super connectors and networkers in Japan soon ;-)

  13. Wow, another LinkedTwitterific moment. @goodpeople Jason reminded me to spend more time on your site, I put it off – only to find you listed me @osakasaul in your @NealSchaffer/japan-tweeple Thanks for that.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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”

  17. 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

  18. 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.

  19. 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

  20. 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.

    • Hey Dianne,

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

      – Neal

  21. 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.

    • Hey Dianne,

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

      – Neal

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