One of the more courageous decisions leaders have to make revolves around how to separate friendship from leadership. This situation arises most typically when a leader is promoted from the ranks of a peer group. All of a sudden, your co-workers/teammates/friends are your direct reports. The worry is that if you change your behavior too much post-promotion, then your former peers will think you are being high and mighty and will distance themselves from you. On the other hand, if you don’t change enough, they might not respect you or will question why you were chosen in the first place.
Although this can be a complex and emotional issue, decision-making can be simplified if you recognize and accept that you must always be a leader first and a friend second. This means accepting that some of your friends may no longer be your friends or that certain friendships will have to take a different shape. Here are some example of situations where the friendship and leadership lines become blurred and suggestions on how to handle them:
Promotion decisions. Do you promote the person for whom you have the most affinity, history or liking over the person most qualified and prepared for the role?
Answer: Always promote based on performance, with one caveat. The higher performer should still have strong interpersonal skills, so others will follow him or her.
Performance reviews. Do you dilute tough performance feedback messages for those closest to you, to avoid hurting their feelings and relational awkwardness?