Today’s topic is friendship. In this post I conclude a short leadership series influenced by the London 2012 Olympics.
The London 2012 Olympics was a great spectacle of human endeavour. Over 10,000 athletes—Olympians—from around the world trained for four years to have the opportunity to represent their nation. We saw 104 Olympic records and 38 world records broken and many personal bests smashed.
The Olympic values are:
Let’s consider the third value: Celebrating friendship.
Eight years ago Dwain Chambers tested positive for banned substances. He received a two-year athletics ban for cheating by using the anabolic steroid THG. He also received a life-time Olympics ban that was lifted earlier this year.
But I’m not interested in Chambers. No, I want to focus on Christian Malcolm and his remarkable friendship with Chambers. I ask the question: what can leaders learn from this?
Friendship is a relationship between friends. Friends care for one another, yet Malcolm paid dearly for Chamber’s cheating. He had his 2003 4x 100m relay silver medal taken away. But he stood by his friend.
According to Wikipedia friends share the following values:
- The tendency to desire what is best for the other
- Sympathy and empathy
- Honesty, perhaps in situations where it may be difficult for others to speak the truth, especially in terms of pointing out the perceived faults of one’s counterpart
- Mutual understanding and compassion; ability to go to each other for emotional support
- Enjoyment of each other’s company
- Trust in one another
- Positive reciprocity—a relationship is based on equal give-and-take between the two parties.
- The ability to be oneself, express one’s feelings and make mistakes without fear of judgement.
Is this correct? Does this differentiate friend from leader? Are these the values we expect in the workplace? Can leadership and friendship coexist?
Friendship In Leadership
Let’s have a closer look at these values; let me share my thoughts on friendship in leadership.
My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me. – Henry Ford
In leadership altruism means putting your team before the task. It is said that a leader is defined by his followers. The altruistic leader recognises this. It is what they achieve in others that matters. They aim to bring out the best in their team.
Empathy is about demonstrating concern for others. To listen and reach an understanding of others, their ideas, needs and feelings. Empathy is important in leadership because it helps create an environment of openness and trust. Failures can be discussed and improvements made. There is no reason for employees to cover up.
Honesty is an essential leadership quality. Hiding the truth is damaging because it stifles innovation and improvement. You can’t mend something if everyone denies it isn’t broken.
What’s more, your team is more likely to follow when you lay out your challenges with them. It’s an issue of trust… and they will recognise this.
Compassion is doing something. A compassionate leader would spend time showing their team how they can meet their goals.
Achievement and enjoyment are two faces of the same coin. People are motivated when they do something worthwhile they enjoy. Wise leaders recognise this. They empower their team—delegate tasks—and know when to say thank you.
Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
When honesty and transparency are lacking there can be no trust. And when trust breaks down the result is fear, anxiety, suspicion, and insecurity. People resist change and performance plummets. Trust is essential to the leaders long-term personal and business relationships.
A reciprocal relationship is pretty much the norm. Of course, what comes back isn’t necessarily a good thing. Most likely it is a reflection of your leadership style. Reciprocity is essential in solving problems and working collaboratively. Leaders must show reciprocity too.
How much are your people the same? How much are your people different? A wise leader knows.
Moreover, creative people are unfashionable. They do the very opposite to what is in fashion! That’s what we need to innovate and improve. Wise leaders nurture these differences.
Friendship in leadership is essential. This doesn’t mean leaders should befriend their team. Rather we should hold the same values as in friendship.
He was young, vulnerable, very naive and has learned from a hard mistake. – Malcolm Christian
Malcolm didn’t like what Chambers did. He was frustrated with his actions and called him a cheat. But he valued friendship more and worked with him to resolve their difficulties.
Have Your Say
Do you think friendship is a leadership quality? Do you see friendship in leadership? Why is teamwork important? What values do you look for in others? Please join the discussion.