Dunbar’s Number

Dunbar’s Number

by Bill High

The Tipping Point.

It’s a famous book by Malcom Gladwell. There he describes how the average person has an inner circle of a few with a maximum of 12-15. Similarly, the average person is going to have a network of 125-150 people.

This principle, called Dunbar’s Number, hits home when we see the average size of churches.  They often sit around 150 people. It’s a capacity thing.

Organizations grow to the capacity of their leader.

But Gladwell points out that there are exceptions to the rule. Some people go far beyond Dunbar’s Number.

That’s why I’ve always been struck by David Green, the CEO and Founder of Hobby Lobby. He’s an admitted introvert. He started a small business where his wife and his two small boys were the only employees at the start.

Today, Hobby Lobby has over 50,000 employees, almost 1,000 stores and will reach $8 billion in sales.

How did that happen? How did he break Dunbar’s Number?

What playbook did he read? What college did he learn that from?


That’s what Leadership Not by the Book is about. It contains David’s 12 unconventional principles that drove Hobby Lobby’s growth.

I got to interview many of David’s top leaders in the process of writing the book. They told me that David’s style was very different. They were truly surprised by how much authority they had to make decisions.

It’s not surprising then that David says, “Don’t give responsibility without authority.”

That’s just one of the big ideas in the book. Would you like to break Dunbar’s number? Are you stuck?

Maybe you need to go outside the playbook? Maybe you need Leadership Not by the Book.


Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

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Published October 10, 2022

Topics: Family Business | Lessons with Bill

American ValuesBusinessFamily BusinessLessons with Bill

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