Mistakes New Leaders Make: Friend First, Leader Second

April 20th, 2014

Justin Clark, MBA

This twelve week series is a collection of my personal experiences as a new leader over the past three years. These are not only mistakes that I have made, but that I continue to make at times. I hope that by sharing my experiences, readers will be able to navigate their role as a leader more skillfully. 

What are the barriers to doing this?

This was one of the hardest lessons I have had to learn! Though I was new to the organization when I became a leader, this will also apply to those who are promoted up from within as well. No matter how you arrive at being a leader, you will want to develop a good rapport with your peers. In some cases, that means we work harder at getting people to like us than we do at being their boss. We do this because we think that if they like us, they will work harder for us.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Being a leader requires that your primary focus be on results. That’s all well and good while things are going as planned, but when it comes time to make tough leadership decisions, friendships with coworkers can muddy the water. Either our judgement is clouded by our friendships or they expect special treatment from you as their friend/boss. Over time, people will respect you more for being fair and consistent as their leader than for being their friend. Being consistent about how you handle yourself will prevent the perception of favoritism among other workers as well.

How can you do it?

1.  Be a leader first.

2.  Set clear boundaries for yourself with your peers.

3.  Be consistent about adhering to your boundaries.

How does setting boundaries lay the foundation for achieving results?

One Response to “Mistakes New Leaders Make: Friend First, Leader Second”

Kendall L. Stewart April 20th, 2014 at 7:09 pm

This is a hard leadership lesson to learn. Most of us learn it only after we have suffered the painful consequences of a professional boundary violation. Friendships are two-way relationships. They exist for the mutual benefit of both parties. Work relationships are one-way. They exist for the benefit of the organization. Leaders can and should still be friendly, of course.

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