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Should Leaders Be Friends With Those They Lead?

Do you believe it is a good idea to be friends with those you lead? Maybe you are a manager or business owner, and you wonder if it is good idea to be friends with your employees.


Many would say no. Many would also say that they don’t even have to like you, as long as they respect you. This philosophy says that too much familiarity and candor will cause a loss of respect, that employees need to have a bit of fear, or at least discomfort around the boss. Do you agree?


I understand that this “distant” philosophy of management and leadership produces a level of result. As a coach, I am always interested in maximum effectiveness. This is not as much a question of morality, but of efficiency, effectiveness, and results.


My coaching experience has taught me that the most effective leaders are also real friends! What is a true friend? Is it not someone who deeply cares about you and your wellbeing? A friend is there for you. A true friend will tell you the truth, even when it hurts, because they care enough to take the risk. I believe that genuine friendship engenders loyalty and trust.


Effectively leading from a place of friendship necessitates a higher standard. It requires utmost integrity. Hypocrisy is the enemy. Transparency and candor must saturate the communication, and mutual respect is a must. To be friends with those you lead, you must care about the whole person. You are not just using people to accomplish objectives but are also committed to each member's success and wellbeing.


Some say this cannot work because the employee will take advantage of the friendship. Is that true friendship? They think it best that employees need to have a bit of fear of their boss and that there should distance between leaders and the rank and file. Does this arrangement foster the best synergy and team spirit?


It certainly is challenging to lead friends. But the rewards and results from such a dynamic are astounding. Those who I lead are some of my very best friends. We hold the deepest respect and regard for one another. And each of them knows that I will not allow our friendship to ever compromise accountability. Cowardice, not friendship, is what keeps people from asking the necessary difficult questions. True friends will sometimes actually hurt one another to prevent a greater harm. Think about that.


In my view, a true friend makes the very best leader. Interesting to consider, isn’t it?

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