Friend Versus Friendly

Dec 30, 2021

As a business owner, I find myself spending significant amounts of time with my team.  So much so, that it sometimes appears to be more time than I spend with my immediate family.  It is only natural then, that there is a comradery that is built through familiarity.  It is a natural tendency to open up and share things, to build trust and connection with those we spend much of our lives with. 

Unfortunately, this can be a trap for the leader if not handled properly.  

In my personal experience, I have found becoming friends with employees to work against me.  Issues such as entitlement, lowering standards (giving exceptions to the rules) and over-trusting are just a few pitfalls.  This same connection that might help me connect with an employee is the very thing that ends up making it harder to enforce company policies and maintain the HR side of the business.

It is hard to not only know where to draw this line, but to draw it at all in the first place.  I wish I could share the intimate details of my life with those I spend so much time with.  One of my measures of success is that I have built a team who spends time with each other outside of work hours.  Tragically, I cannot be part of this wonderful world that I have created in this way and it leads to a sense of sadness frequently.

A leader must skirt the line with being friendly and being friends. 

For myself, I have a need to connect as it is a human need.  Instead of looking to my team (which might be a natural inclination), I look to my fellow entrepreneurs.  I have learned to grow my network not just for practical purposes such as counsel, but also for my own social needs and support.

Anyone in a position of authority has to keep a bit of distance in order to keep things moving forward. 

This is one of the prices to pay for choosing the path of a leader.  In the end, we need to know our place and role as leaders, even if it separates us in ways that we don’t enjoy for the greater good.