Can Leaders Have True Friendships?

From our earliest years, we develop friendships - many of them last a lifetime. These friendships become a source of ideas, mischief, laughter, inspiration, disappointment, values, and candor. As our lives become more complicated with responsibilities, expanded families, and folks tugging at us to do this or that we sometimes neglect to nurture and build on our friendships. At other times we grow apart from friends because of our individual growth in different directions, values, and interests. In the workplace how does having friends impact our ability to lead? Can we have friends and lead at the same time?

The Value of a True Friend
What are true friends? They are those that you can talk to about anything and get brutally honest feedback. They are the ones who are always there for you expecting nothing in return but your friendship. Often they can complete your sentences, laugh at your imperfections and sense your feelings without a word being spoken. An unspoken trust between friends creates a bond that reaches into our souls. Many long-time relationships and marriages first started with budding friendships.

The Changing Role of Friends
In the modern world, friendships play many interesting roles. Facebook continues to grow as a social media giant with 1.1 billion "friends" BFFing one another each day - some of who haven't seen one another in decades. The media plays a role in influencing our pop culture as hit television shows like "Friends" enjoyed phenomenal success receiving awards and ranking as one of the greatest all-time hits. Friends are everywhere and shape not only who we are and how we behave but who we want to become.

Professional Relationships Must Remain Professional
As leaders, the friendships we develop may exist as both our "friend" and our nemesis. Friends may be invaluable confidantes and sources of wise counsel that we depend on to help us with decisions. However, friendship may also cloud our objectivity and our loyalties may make tough choices even more difficult. We all need trusted advisors to help us recognize and know the truth. However, leaders must be extremely cautious to avoid perceived or real favoritism because of friendships. Always it is important to keep a psychological distance in professional relationships and to always reward performance and responsibility based on merit, not friendship. Having friends as confidantes, advisors and just plain companionship is a critical part of maintaining optimal health and well-being. From a personal perspective, friends help us through tragedy and share our happiest moments. From a professional standpoint, they can help us navigate tough decisions and provide the invaluable feedback we need to stay focused, fast, and flexible. Balancing friends and professional relationships can be a challenge and it's easy for the lines to become blurred. Keep work relationships professional and the value of professional friendships will shine through.