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When You Become Your Friend’s Boss

It is a leader’s Duty—their moral obligation—to not play favorites.

One of the toughest jobs in leadership could be leading your friends. Many people get promoted and then suddenly realize they are expected to lead people who were peers only a week ago. Suddenly, they have to give direction, coach them and correct them. Sometimes we end up coaching them not to do things we did ourselves—and they know it!

It is a leader’s Duty—their moral obligation—to not play favorites. We must coach everyone fairly, no matter our past relationship with them. I admit I did this poorly one time and better the next.

As a new sales leader, I let a personal relationship with “Elliott” get in the way of me doing my Duty. I was sure I had kept my personal relationship with Elliott separate from our work relationship. We had always told each other our time together outside of work would not impact how we conducted ourselves at work.

We were both wrong.

Elliott left the company after some time. This is when I began to hear stories about Elliott. I began to find out he had pulled the wool over my eyes. My personal relationship with him caused me to overlook the warning signs about his performance. When I asked someone why they didn’t tell me, they answered, “What were we supposed to say, Dave? He was your friend.”

This is when I realized I could not maintain friendships at the same level as I had when we were peers. It was my Duty to separate myself—even if I didn’t like it. This wasn’t to be aloof, it was to become a strong leader