Friendship vs. Leadership… Can Both Prevail?
An important aspect to leadership is authenticity. People will always gain more support for a topic or idea when they believe whole-heartedly in it. However, being able to show dedication as a leader does not always come easily. Obstacles can often stand in a leader’s way, whether that may be physical people or social constraints that oppose a leader from voicing his/her own ideas and opinions. However, one of the hardest things that a leader often has to overcome is when his/her views do not align with those closest to the leader. This is often a problem more for people like me, a student leader, where opinions of peers still matter a great deal. While worrying about being accepted is not a major concern for a leader high in power, such as political party leaders, gaining input and advice from peers is prevalent in a wide range of leadership positions.
One of the hardest things that I have had to overcome as a student leader is when issues arise on one particular board that I am on where my fellow officers and I have become best friends over the last two years. While many bosses and leaders tend to stray away from making friendships in the workplace, as a student, it is much more challenging to not befriend the fellow students that I spend so much of my time with (Bregman, 2014).
Every person holds personal beliefs on certain situations and knowing when to voice those beliefs is very dependent on the circumstances. However, in student leadership, with such little time to hold the position (as little as one semester or as long as four years), holding back is not always an option. Because student leadership positions are not long-term, concealing true emotions can sometimes lead to built-up anger amongst leaders.
When a conflict arises between student leaders, I know that I personally quickly go through a flow chart in my mind. Some questions that I usually ask myself are “will this issue matter a week from now?”, “who is affected by the outcome of this decision?,” and “would I be looking at this situation the same way if I was an outsider?” My answers to these questions help to form an opinion on the situation before I can assess or even comprehend how others stand. Typically, my positions in leadership as a student go on without conflict. We can generally all see eye-to-eye because we share common goals for our clubs and operate on similar wavelengths. However, when discrepancies arise, student leaders must be able to articulate their view in a respectful manner to avoid major conflict.
Not only important to myself as a student leader but to myself as a member of society is knowing when to speak my mind and when to keep my private thoughts to myself. However, amidst recent conflict in one of my clubs, I was forced to make this difficult decision of knowing when to voice my opinion. The consequence of voicing my views was different than what it normally is when I am bothered by something: my views directly contradicted my fellow leaders, two of which are my best friends. Like I previously mentioned, straying away from work friendships is often encouraged between people of higher importance, but it is only natural that over the course of a few years, becoming friends is inevitable. But does that mean that just because I am friends with someone, I should bite my tongue on the situation and move on? It was at this point in my personal situation where I reflected in and asked myself more questions: “will the voicing of my opinions degrade my friendships?”, “does this situation in an unrelated extra-curricular activity have a direct affect on our separate friendship?”, and “will my friends actually take my concerns seriously and genuinely listen to what I have to say?” Because I am very lucky to work in a leadership position where we all hold each other in equal regard, I knew that everything I had to say on the situation would be listened to respectfully.
So, I bolstered up the courage, took a deep breath, and told my friends that while I respected their views, I did not think they fell in line with what we value as a club. Once the initial shock wore off, we continued our meeting talking out the dispute and coming to an agreement that not everything either of us was saying was accurate. Some of the most prominent businessmen and CEOs in the country may say that avoiding friendships in the workplace is the wiser route to go. However, by taking the proper precautions outlined by Peter Bregman, these friendships can be maintained. He states that the necessary steps include having a commitment to objectives, being comfortable with strong emotions, developing friendship skills, and being prepared to lose friendships (Bregman, 2014). Transparency is crucial in leadership positions but even more vital when working alongside one’s friends. I hold my friendships very close to me and am grateful that I lead with these friends. With hard work and dedication, I will be capable of continuing my leadership positions alongside my friends.
Bregman, P. (2014, November 01). How to Have Friends at Work When You’re the Boss. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2014/03/how-to-have-friends-at-work-when-youre-the-boss-2