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The Fine Line Between Friendship and Leadership

The old school of leadership will tell you that leaders and bosses can’t be friends because it may lead to favoritism.

The new school of leadership says there is a way to be friends without compromising relationships or undermining alliances.

Leadership is all about relationships—the connections we make, the friendships we create. So how can friendship and leadership coexist?

In fact, the two types of relationships have more in common than you’d expect. Here are some of the shared traits:

Altruism. Like friendship, true leadership involves selflessness and concern for the well-being of another. It may mean putting your people ahead of yourself, looking out for the other person, or acting in a way that benefits another. It comes down to bringing out the best in those you lead and befriend.

Loyalty. Both friendship and leadership are about devotion. Allegiance and faithfulness call for us to be steadfast and dependable. Loyalty requires responsibility and commitment.

Honesty. Like friendship, true leadership having integrity, encouraging others to speak up and tell their truth. It means expecting leaders to be honest and frank (although never unkind) with their feedback and communication. When we are able to communicate honestly, we are holding up a mirror to each other that makes for the best leadership and friendship.

Trust. Like friendship, true leadership trust means having confidence in each other, the faith that if anything goes wrong you will be there for each other, and the certainty that no matter how much you err or fail you will never be left behind. Trust in leadership and friendship gives us someone to rely on.

Reciprocity. Like friendship, true leadership is a give and take. It reflects the practice of sharing and exchanging, knowing how to give and take with generosity.

Compassion. Both friendship and leadership bring concerns about the suffering of others. It’s an attitude that calls us to reach out when there needs to be a listening ear and to be open when there needs to be understanding—all with sympathy, warmth, and kindness. Great leadership involves respect and great friendship involves tenderness; both open our hearts to others.

Maybe the philosophers said it best:

Emerson said friendship is supreme truth of truth and tenderness.

Aristotle said friendship it is holding a mirror to each other.

Thoreau said friendship is the grand stake for which the game of life is played.

C.S. Lewis said friendship is one of those things that gives you a value for survival.

So as you walk the fine line between friendship and leadership, remember the importance and interconnectedness of both.

Lead From Within: As leaders, let’s cultivate relationships were we match their efforts, respect their hustle, support their ambition, protect their heart, value their loyalty and uplift their spirits. When we do, the fine line between leadership and friendship is rendered invisible.

—thanks to Lolly Daskal for this article

LEAD Alumni revel in the life-long Friendships made with their classmates and other Alumni … one of those things that gives us value

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