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It is a fallacy to think that leadership necessitates being a cold, emotionally distant individual above it all. On the contrary – one of the most important ingredients in creating a positive corporate culture is connecting with your employees. It is by walking and fighting amongst his men that Henry V in Shakespeare’s play is able to sell the idea that he and his loyal English troops are a true “band of brothers,” able to take on any challenge together, no matter how big. On the battlefield, onstage and, yes, in the boardroom, a sense of camaraderie is vital to success.

That being said, there’s a difference between friendship and leadership. It’s something Henry V himself rubs up against in 2 Henry IV, famously banishing his roguish friend Falstaff once he assumes the throne.

Friendship and Leadership – how can we keep one from spoiling the other?

Make Roles Clear

The biggest mistake in this regard is to not make friendship and leadership clear from the outset. You need to have it completely understood between yourself and your friend what respective roles you hold, and, thus, who the boss is. You never want to find yourself in a position where friends think they’re “on par” professionally with the leaders. 

Make Priorities Clear

You also need to make perfectly clear what your priorities are at work. Friends have to know that during work hours, at least, you are prioritizing other things besides your friendship. It’s nothing personal, you just need to be able to focus and give your business work your undivided attention as a leader during work time.

It goes both ways. You also need to be able to put aside work while you’re out of the office and treat your friends as friends – or you’ll soon find yourself short of them.

This can be especially difficult for some given the fact that it naturally means prioritizing work over friendship – but that’s the point. You need to have this hierarchy of needs and workplace roles worked out and clearly defined. 

The more fuzziness you have here, the greater the threat you face to both your leadership and friendship.