• Tony Richards

The Balance of Leadership & Relationship

Having friends is a perfectly natural thing. It’s very human.

Blending relationship and leadership is a topic with which leaders often struggle. The struggle comes in balancing these three primary driving forces:

1. The amount of care and friendship you share

2. The amount you like someone

3. The amount of value the person brings to the situation

The best organizational cultures have a terrific blend of strong vision and personal responsibility coupled with warmth and caring for individuals. The best leaders do a great job of drawing strong lines in regards to relationships, lines strong enough where everyone can see them.


Friendship can be a powerful influence. Leaders who are afraid of not meeting expectations where friends are concerned, losing their approval or even of the friendship being taken away can find themselves at a huge disadvantage in leadership. In these cases, leaders can find themselves going with bad ideas or in the wrong direction out of fear they will disrupt the relationship they have with people who are making these suggestions. They may do what is right for the relationship while doing what may be wrong for the organization.

Establishing strong boundaries of what is acceptable and unacceptable in the environment while still demonstrating you care and are interested in them as employees is an exercise and inventory every leader should participate in doing. If leaders don’t clearly establish these parameters first with themselves and then clearly communicate them, the may find themselves way over the lines of the boundaries.

Some Tips:

  1. Make the decision to be the leader. Take on the responsibility you know you should. Establish the boundaries of the relationship and clearly communicate them. Don’t get caught in “no-man’s land”.

  1. Don’t cut people off entirely. Don’t get into total resistance of your friends because you don’t have the courage to discuss the boundaries with them and your leadership responsibility. Leaders have to trust, so you might as well start here.

  1. Don’t give them reasons to disrespect you. If you have had a lot of social time together including happy hours and so forth, you may need to scale those back a little at a time. They may have a hard time following you if they just saw you behaving crazy the night before.

  1. Make the hard decisions. Don’t lose your leadership influence with good or great performing people because your friend(s) are performing badly. Buck up and have hard conversations and make difficult decisions in these areas.

What other tips can you add to mine?

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