Why Bad Managers Focus on Friendship Instead of Leadership

leadership or different concept with red and white paper airplane on blue background

Until you are a manager, you never really know the struggle of balancing friendship with leadership. In one sense, friendship shouldn’t even be on the radar, but on the other side of the coin, everyone wants to be liked, which puts leaders in a bit of a challenging position.  

Anyone who has led or has studied the field of leadership development will tell you that building and maintaining quality relationships is a key to success. However, having the goal of being best friends first with every team member will hurt you.  

This doesn’t mean you or any leader should avoid or reject being friends with a team member. If a friendship grows, that is great, but that’s not the purpose of leadership. If being friends with a team member becomes more important than doing what’s in their or the team’s best interest, your priorities are out of alignment.

If being friends with a team member becomes more important than doing what’s in their or the team’s best interest, your priorities are out of alignment.

Healthy boundaries for both parties

Boundaries, respect, and trust are essential to the success of any relationship. For leaders, think, “friendly is essential; friendship isn’t required.”

It turns out; team members need healthy boundaries as well. Most professionals don’t want or even need a friend in their boss, but they do have to know their manager cares about them.

Professionals don’t need their manager to be a best friend, but they do have to know they care about them.  

How to focus on leadership over friendship

When you dig into friendship in the workplace deeper, it becomes less elusive identifying its five key components from research; (a)Affect (b) a Grand Project (c) Altruistic Reciprocity (d) Moral Obligations, (e) Equality.

In the workplace, one of these stands out, which is “a grand project.” C. S. Lewis said, “lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest.” Wikipedia defines friendship as a relationship of mutual affection between people. While there is nothing wrong with a platonic relationship between colleagues, the best leaders see the lines of friendship and leadership differently. They know their primary job is not friendship.

Instead, they know their job is to connect team members to a deeper cause, remove barriers to help them be successful, coach them up daily, and challenge them to become a better version of themselves.

No alt text provided for this image

If you have fallen too much into the “friend zone” as a manager or want to get back to leaning into the shared common interests with team members, here are some ideas.  

1. Reconnect to the Team to a Deeper Purpose

No matter your business, there is a deeper purpose for why it exists. Maybe it’s to make the lives of your clients better, or perhaps it’s to transport joy around the world. Regardless of what it is, it’s the leader’s job to constantly reconnect people to the cause behind the work a team does.  

While this might sound corny, it’s not. By constantly talking about important things that matter, you elevate the conversation and relationship between the people you get the opportunity to lead.

2. Elevate the Standard

To ensure leadership comes before friendship, it’s a great idea to elevate the standard of what’s expected to be a team member. A standard is defined as what good looks like. However, managers define what good looks like, leaders define what great looks like. 

Your team’s behavior will default to the standards that you demonstrate and define for them. Be crystal clear, concise, and conclusive. Limit yourself to as few standards as possible so they can be remembered and applied. If you struggle to set clear standards, ask yourself the following three questions:

What’s the end result I want from my team?

What’s stopping us from getting there?

What can be done instead?

3. Act Like a Coach

The best way to demonstrate to team members that you are in your role to lead and not just be a friend is to help them perform at their best and be proactive in helping them reach their full potential. A great way to achieve this is to act as a coach for them.  

Just think of the best sports coaches in the world. They are constantly looking for ways to bring out the best in their players and to help them get from where they are to where they want or need to be. 

The best coaches help people get from where they are to where they want or need to be.

Arm yourself with a set of go-to coaching questions to get your people to think differently and solve their problems. Then, check out the Coaching for Excellence Program if you want to improve your coaching skills in less than 1 hour. 

4. Prepare to Be Tested

No one likes change, and there is a high likelihood you will be met with resistance or downright defiance. Be prepared and willing to follow up and follow through with your mindset of leadership over friendship. 

I don’t pretend this to be easy. In fact, you will be tempted to default to your old ways. Leaders aren’t immune to resisting change, and the path of least resistance can be tempting. Reject this with all your heart, soul, and mind. As I wrote in Building the Best, “only leaders who are tested become great. 

Only leaders who are tested become great.

Remember, it’s your job to elevate others and improve performance over time, and it doesn’t happen by accident. 

Closing

What’s interesting about this topic of friendship and leadership is there isn’t only one correct way. I have had team members where real legitimate lifelong friendships developed because of our work together and others where it didn’t. I am profoundly grateful for both.  

However, as long as leaders keep the main thing, the main thing, and focus on leadership over friendship, our teams and our performance will be in a better place.

Do you agree?

Coaching for Excellence: The development of your coaching skills will make a tremendous difference in helping you lead your best this year. Sign up for the Coaching for Excellence Program!

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz? Join over 55k leaders and discover your current leadership style for free.

About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

Why Being Humble Makes You a Better Leader

chess board game concept for competition and strategy

There is something remarkable about humble leaders. It could be the way they make you feel when they communicate; it could be the fact that you feel drawn to going out of your way to be a part of what they’re doing; or it could be the way they model what you want to become.  

According to research in the Academy of Management Journal, humble leaders actually “embolden individuals to aspire to their highest potential and enables them to make the incremental improvements necessary to progress toward that potential.” 

Being a humble leader pays off in the performance category, but what’s most remarkable is the vast majority of humble leaders have every reason, because of their accomplishments to reject humility, but instead they embrace it. They don’t just talk about it, but it’s built into who they are and how they lead. It’s as if deep down, they understand that the path to effective leadership is paved with humility, not pride.  

Great leaders understand that the path to effective leadership is paved with humility, not pride.  

Most leaders grasp this concept because, before their achievements, they encountered strain in the form of failures, challenges, and or heartaches.  

What is Humility?

When you think of some famous recent leaders like Donald Trump, Elon Musk, or Jeff Bezos, humility is far from the first leadership trait that comes to mind. Whether you believe those leaders have humility or not, we often don’t think of humility in leaders because we don’t know what it is.

Websters defines it as; freedom from pride or arrogance, the quality or state of being humble. Being humble isn’t a lack of confidence or not believing in yourself. In fact, quite the opposite is true. To have freedom from pride and arrogance, it must start from a place of introspection.

C.S. Lewis said, “humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” 

In an article a few years ago, the Washington Post found: “True humility, scientists have learned, is when someone has an accurate assessment of both his strengths and weaknesses, and he sees all this in the context of the larger whole. He’s a part of something far greater than he. He knows he isn’t the center of the universe. And he’s both grounded and liberated by this knowledge. Recognizing his abilities, he asks how he can contribute. Recognizing his flaws, he asks how he can grow.”

So the natural question is, if you struggle with humility or want to be a more humble leader, how do you do it? It won’t be easy, but here’s how to get started.

Start with the Truth

I have written before, “all improvement starts with the truth.” When it comes to humility, being a humble leader also starts with the truth. Philadelphia 76ers basketball coach Doc Rivers said, “Average players want to be left alone. Good players want to be coached. Great players want to be told the truth.”  

The truth is every position that exists today will one day be held by someone else. The President of the United States, The Pope, and even your current role will one day be someone else’s seat. Allow this truth to sink into your soul.  

You have a significant role to play while you have it, and you should give everything you can to do meet your potential, but it can’t and shouldn’t be all about you. It has to be about elevating others and helping those around you become the best version of themselves.

Stay a Student

Some of the signs of an arrogant leader include; not listening, always wanting to be right, avoiding accountability, and thinking they know it all. A humble leader looks and feels much different. They admit when they make mistakes and are obsessed with learning.  

TD Jakes mentioned in his new book, Don’t Drop the Mic, “The world is a university, and everyone in it is a teacher. Make sure you wake up and go to school your entire life learning from the good and the bad.”

It reminds me of when I interviewed Villanova’s head coach Jay Wright for an episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast right after they had won the national championship. He heard a quote from Napoleon about leadership during the show, and I watched him grab a pen and write it down. After we had finished recording, he said, “I hadn’t heard that quote, and I want to use it with my team.”

Wright had every right to feel like he had learned it all because of his team’s success, but instead, he continued to embrace the mindset of staying a student, which you and I must do as well. If at any point you stop learning, you will be dying.  

Embrace Accountability

One of the most significant mistakes leaders in choosing pride over humility is avoiding accountability. Instead of inviting people in their lives to be feedback vehicles, they decide to go it alone. In the beginning, it isn’t a big deal. But as time goes on, the lies and thoughts in one’s head become their reality. Those thoughts then become engrained in their behavior, and it’s what other people experience. 

The vaccine for this situation is to embrace accountability. Put people around you who keep you grounded and are willing to have difficult dialogues when they recognize something is off. Then you keep an open mind and heart to the words they say without getting defensive or making excuses.  

I recognize this is easy to write but difficult to put into practice. But the best part, is when your team sees you embracing accountability, they will embrace it as well.

Closing

The best leaders indeed understand that the path to effective leadership is paved with humility and not pride. However, it doesn’t mean it’s easy, or it doesn’t mean you won’t have moments where pride or ego win you over. The key is to recognize these moments and get back on the humility path as quickly as possible. 

Coaching for Excellence: The development of your coaching skills will make a tremendous difference in helping you lead your best in 2021. Learn More and Register Today

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz? Join over 55k leaders and discover your current leadership style for free.

About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.Report

How to Be Humble at Work (And Why the Best Leaders Embrace It)

There are many attributes that leaders must develop if they wish to have a meaningful impact in the workplace. Empathy improves your ability to relate with those you lead, while a focus on accountability ensures that everyone gives their best effort.

But among these many important attributes, the value of humility seems to be consistently overlooked. Part of this is due to common misconceptions about what humility is and what it means to be humble. In reality, however, humility is one attribute that no leader should do without.

Part of the reason humility tends to be overlooked in the workplace is because it is frequently misconstrued as a “weak” attribute. We have been led to believe that people who are humble are easily bulldozed by others and aren’t willing to stick up for themselves. Many define humility as having a low opinion of oneself.

While this may be one widely accepted view of humility today, it is actually a far cry from the true meaning of the word — and the way it should be applied in leadership. Humility isn’t about being passive and weak. It’s about showing respect and recognizing the truth in all situations, including in the workplace.

In contrast to the idea of humility as weakness, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word as “freedom from pride or arrogance.” In fact, it is listed as an antonym for words like “egoism,” “conceit” and “superiority.”

C.S. Lewis shared one of my favorite quotes on the subject:

“humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

In all my work helping professionals become leaders, there is no doubt the top leaders from the BTB Leader Assessment, are confident in themselves but put their people ahead of themselves.

The Value of a Humble Outlook at Work

When you’ve already found success in the business world, it can be tempting to dismiss feedback or criticism from others. But this leads to stagnation and pride. While it’s true that not all criticism is valid. Leaders who don’t have much humility have a tendency to dismiss all criticism or worse blame others for their own mistakes.

“Humble leaders must be willing to evaluate criticism to determine if it’s valid or not,” explained Christopher Ferry, founder of Boca Recovery Center, in a recent text message. Together, we’d been discussing the value of humility in leadership. Continued Ferry, “The best leaders are willing to admit when they are wrong and view mistakes as learning opportunities, so they can turn them into something positive — something transformative.”

When I asked Dustin Kaehr on the Follow My Lead Podcast what the most important characteristic for a leader to embody today he said, “There are many things, but humility is at the top.” In other words, a humble leader sounds like the type of person that most of us would prefer to interact with on a daily basis. It is the type of person that can become a truly effective leader.

Strengthening the Team

A study published in the Journal of Management highlighted just how far-reaching the effects of humble leadership can be. The study concluded that leaders who were humble were far more likely to delegate and innovate. As a result, company performance and employee satisfaction improved, while turnover fell.

In other words, humble leadership essentially empowers employees. They become more willing to speak their mind and offer suggestions because they know that their leaders are going to listen.

This culture results in high engagement and innovation — and if there’s one lesson that has been consistent in the business world, it’s that innovation is crucial if you want your success to be sustainable in the long run.

Though humility is often underrated by the world at large, it’s essential if you want to be successful as a leader not just at work, but in life. Reject your notion to boast or lift yourself above anyone and decide to be at the service of others.

Free Webinar: Do you help develop employees into leaders or are you interested in some ways too it? Now is your opportunity to learn “How to Build Great Leaders: 5 Ways to Develop Leaders and Measure its Effectiveness”, Join John live on Thursday, September 12th at 12 PM EST by signing up here. Limited Spots are available.

What’s Your Leadership Style? Join over 40k leaders and discover how well you are leveraging love and discipline as a leader and find out your current leadership style for free.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn professionals into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the author the upcoming book Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.