Why a dynamic leader must be a friend to their team

A good leader/friend inspires others with confidence in him;
A great leader/friend inspires them with confidence in themselves.

Being an efficient and effective dynamic leader is about lighting a fire in the gut of your followers…being a manager and boss is about lighting a fire under their butts.

Which would you prefer? A team of followers engaged from the neck up or employees engaged from the shoulders down?

Relationships are about respect. If your team respects you as their leader, friendship will not negate this fact. They will follow you even more diligently.

Leadership is about fairness. Don’t confuse friendship with favoritism. This engagement does not mean alienating part of your workforce as you favor the ones with whom you are friends. As a leader, you must treat everyone you lead with equal respect, opportunity and fairness.

Friendship is merely mutual feelings of trust and affection. What could better define a successful leader/follower relationship? You must trust each other. They trust you to look out for their best interests and you trust them to look out for the best interests of the organisation. Friends are kind and act as a positive influence in each others lives. The relationship revolves around honesty, trustworthiness, and loyalty…the same traits leadership is based on.

A relationship is about enjoyment of each other’s company. This statement relates to friendship as well as leadership. The truly dynamic leader develops an organization where people enjoy their time in the office and working with the Boss. Followers should enjoy interactions with their leader.

True Leadership is not a trait but a relationship. To be a successful leader, you have to be able to relate to all personalities, not just the ones similar t yours. The ability to lead involves learned skills of relating to your followers, a commitment to listen and understand their perspectives and a mutual respect for everyone in your organisation.

Some people think friendships within the ranks of an organisation are not scalable. The military is the perfect example of this point. Friendship extends across the ranks, but only to a point. Friendship does not mean addressing a superior officer by their first name, it means getting to know them, their family, their dreams. The key is knowing what lines you cannot cross, and knowing where the professional bounds are in every relationship. This does not complicate the relationship, it makes it simpler. Don’t you have friends at different levels of “friendship?” My bestfriend knows everything about me, because we have been together for 26 years, while a friend at my current office, that I have known for 8 months, knows much less about me and we are not likely to share the same details about our lives as I do with my best friend.

Finally, the most emotional aspect of this merger of leadership and friendship, is the taboo situation of firing a friend. Well, back to the definition of friendship…they look out for each other’s best interest. If a situation is to the point you must ask them to leave your organization, then they obviously are not upholding their side of the friendship and taking care of you and the team. Have you ever had a friendship that did not last? This is no different. Yes, this is tough. Leaders are paid to make the hard calls and tough actions. Being a leader does not deprive you of emotion, and you will probably shed a few tears, literally or figuratively, after this happens, but all friendships do not last.

Now, there’s no need to be best’ies with all of your employees, but a true leader does not present a superficial friendly demeanor. The dynamic leader truly cares about everyone they lead, wants to know them personally, and is responsible for looking out for their best interest. Friendship and leadership alike are based on accountability, commitment and authenticity. Personally, I do not think the two can be separated. Like leadership techniques, there are plenty of opinions out there to the contrary. You need to determine the best demeanor for your leadership style.

What do you think? Should a leader be friends with their followers? Please let me know in the comments section and we will discuss.

About Chris Stricklin

Chris R Stricklin is a leader, mentor and coach in integrating the fields of negotiations, leadership skills, public relations, public speaking and complex organisational change. His unique experience as a U.S.A.F. Thunderbird coupled with Pentagon-level management of critical Air Force resources valued at $840B, multiple N.A.T.O. assignments and command-experience in the United States Air Force allow his unique synthesis of speaking, leading, management, negotiations and continuous improvement. Chris is also a Certified Manager with degrees in Economics, Financial Planning, Strategic Studies and Operational Art and Science.