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I manage a group of people who are mostly around my age, in our mid-30’s. We work long hours together and often go to dinner or drinks after work. Recently, over lunch, an older colleague told me to be careful about making friends with my staff. Am I crossing a line between being a manager and friend?



Answer: There was a time when it was considered best for managers to keep a personal distance from their employees. The school of thought was that friendship was a slippery slope to favoritism. Today, however, we understand that leadership is all about relationships. Leaders who build strong relationships with their team are in a better position to empathize with the needs of their diverse workforce and to handle the dynamic shifts in business cycles.

If you think about it, there are a lot of similarities between being a good friend and a good leader. We all want both friends and leaders who can hold us accountable without being unkind, and with whom we can be honest. We want friends and leaders who genuinely solicit our advice, but who are strong enough to take decisive action. We want friends and leaders that we can confide in and trust, without worrying that they will gossip about us with others.

You don’t have to be bossy or distant to be an effective leader. When you apply the principles of being a trusted friend to your leadership role, you’ll find that the line between friendship and leadership becomes invisible.

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