Do you want to be a friend or do you want to be a leader? Or perhaps you’re looking for that happy medium and you’d like to be a friendly leader. The answer lies in where you’ve chosen to set your boundaries.
Healthy boundaries will help you remember that as a leader your primary function is to guide and inspire your team. From that perspective, you will be able to freely challenge people, pull the best out of them, request their commitment and hold them accountable. Healthy boundaries will also allow you to set the tone, the energy level and mindset of your team.
To confuse being liked with being trusted or respected is a classic trap for many leaders. Slipping into the role of being a friend to your direct reports is a slippery slope which will likely dilute your position as their leader.
Sooner or later you will have to decide against, disappoint, criticize, discipline, or even fire someone who works for you. To someone who views you as a friend, these actions will feel like a personal betrayal. Once your relationship is damaged, you will find that their responsiveness and their commitment is likely to wane.
Naturally you may find yourself to be more in sync with certain individuals on your team. Whether you share some special projects or some personal interests with a staff member, be mindful that developing a closer work relationship with one of your direct reports may be perceived as ‘hanging out’ and favouritism. It will not take long for people to wonder if the person closest to the leader has more power. Small things can throw perception off and impact a team’s dynamics.
Healthy boundaries are crucial to your success as a leader. They foster your credibility. If you want to experiment with developing healthy boundaries, try giving a good dose of respect, empathy and compassion while holding people accountable to their commitments. A great test to evaluate your boundaries is asking yourself the following, “while all may not be equal can I say that I am fair?”