Catalytic systems whose properties can be systematically tuned via changes in synthesis conditions are highly desirable for the next-generation catalyst design and optimization. Herein, we present a two-dimensional (2D) conductive metal–organic framework consisting of M-N4 units (M = Ni, Cu) and a hexaaminobenzene (HAB) linker as a catalyst for the oxygen reduction reaction. By varying synthetic conditions, we prepared two Ni-HAB catalysts with different crystallinities, resulting in catalytic systems with different electric conductivities, electrochemical activity, and stability. We show that crystallinity has a positive impact on conductivity and demonstrate that this improved crystallinity/conductivity improves the catalytic performance of our model system. Additionally, density functional theory simulations were performed to probe the origin of M-HAB’s catalytic activity, and they suggest that M-HAB’s organic linker acts as the active site with the role of the metal being to modulate the linker sites’ binding strength.