Leadership 101: Be a Boss, Not a Friend

Boss-Friend-e1330197491600Author: Bud Haney

I have been in the people business for over 20 years. We provide tools to help with companies’ prospective and existing employees, making it easier for managers, supervisors, and those in the executive suite to understand the people who are doing the work inside their company – which in turn helps them increase productivity and retain top performers. My partner, Jim Sirbasku, and I started our business in 1991. Today we operate in over 120 countries and service over 40,000 clients.

Needless to say, I have seen every type of leader out there. I have seen leaders rise, and I have seen leaders fall. Now, we have all heard the saying that people leave people, not businesses, and in my 20 years, I find that saying to be true. A recurring issue I see in company after company is that leaders are a friend and not a boss. Look, I get it - people naturally want people to like them. And if the saying above is true, then instinctively leaders will be the “cool boss” so that their people won’t leave them.

But, there is a difference between a boss that employees enjoy working under and a boss that employees call “buddy.” As a good leader, your employees should enjoy working under you, but you don’t have to slack on deadlines or throw an office party every day to gain their loyalty. In fact, you should do just the opposite. A good leader will challenge his or her employees to grow their skill sets, recognize and reward good work, and hold employees responsible for their professional duties and expectations.

However, a “cool boss” usually earns this reputation by being a friend – an equal. The buddy-boss will overlook tardiness, time off, tasks, and deadlines. This boss often plays favorites and may engage in the aforementioned behaviors as well. This type of behavior can destroy a business in the long term. In this situation, employees may enjoy the laid-back environment for a short time, but when the boss begins playing favorites and employees’ issues aren’t being taken seriously by their leader, a rapid decline in employee retention usually follows. This type of boss has traded productivity for temporary social harmony within the office - potentially risking the success of the entire business.

An important thing to realize as a leader is that employees want to be led. They have enough friends; they need leadership. If employees are not being challenged in the workplace, they are more likely to seek out other employment opportunities. As a boss, you are not an equal with your employees; the second you become an equal, you have relinquished your rights to leadership. Leaders must be respected by their employees in order to be successful.

Leaders, remember: you are not in your organization to be a counselor, friend, or an equal. You are there to lead – to lead your company to its greatest success, to lead your employees to their highest potential, and to lead other leaders by demonstrating what it is to be a great boss (hint: it’s not to be a buddy!). How do you lead? Let us know in the comment section below!

Request a copy of our Leadership Blook by clicking here. Our Leadership Blook is a collection of the most timely and relevant articles on leadership that have appeared on our blog in the past year. Reading the Blook guarantees that you will learn something you can use daily in your business to elevate yourself or your other leaders, something that will cause your business to rise to the next level. The Leadership Blook features articles from Joie de Vivre Hotels founder and CEO Chip Conley, and Winick Enterprises CEO and thought leader Peter Winick.