You must be friendly but never just a friend

Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them. – John C. Maxwell

How do you get people to trust and open up to you yet at the same time make them respect your authority? It is a hard choice to make. There is one small opening that offers up the best of both worlds, but it is hard to come by, hard to keep and extremely easy to lose.

If you have respect through admiration from those you command, then you are their leader and their friend. But in 99% of the cases, you will not have this luxury. So you will have to maintain a, let’s say professional distance from those you interact with.

The people who depend on you for leadership must never forget that if it comes to it you will cut them loose. 

I’ve thought of other ways to put it more gently, but the truth of the matter is: in your future path as the commander of your troops, you will indeed make hard choices, and some of those choices relate to the livelihood of those you command. If need be you will not be able to “look the other way” just because you are friends with them.

And this is a sentiment that must be shared. All people under you must know that as friendly as you are, if the business requires it you will cut them loose. If they underperform, do not grow, do not help you or in any way undermine the success of your goals, sooner or later they have to go. 

So keep a polite, honest, open and friendly attitude to those around you. Go out of your way to help them professionally, especially when their growth ties in to your growth. But do not delude yourself thinking that friendship is the foundation of your relationships. If need be, it is expected of you, as a leader, to make the hard choices and steer the company foreword. You’ll do fine.


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