When you’re in leadership, it’s inevitable that you will run into some awkward situations and conversations. This is particularly true when you are leading friends and peers.
A problem many leaders find themselves facing is not knowing how to actually lead and correct friends. Hopefully, you’ve been able to develop friendships on your team.
Nothing feels better than playing with people you have history with, both on and off the stage.
However, giving instruction to a friend or speaking into their lives, especially when it’s not initiated by them, doesn’t come naturally to most. But if you’re going to be an effective leader, and honestly, a good friend, then being able to push past the initial discomfort of speaking out is going to be necessary.
For a few years, I managed the worship department at Bethel Church in Redding, CA. Over that period of time, I had to have several serious conversations with friends. Conversations about everything from moral failures to ways they weren’t living up to their commitment to the team. I know the inherent tension is a real thing, but I also know the conversations are essential.
There are a couple things to keep in mind when having these chats.
First things first, start by readjusting your idea of what these interactions look like. Namely, instead of feeling like your friendship makes correction uncomfortable, view it as an advantage. In my opinion, the fact that you have a friendship is a plus. I think most people would agree that it’s easier to follow a friend than a stranger. Personally, I would rather follow someone who knows and loves me than someone who is disconnected from my life. A friend is easier to trust and if they make a mistake in their dealings with me, I am going to be much more gracious in my response toward them.
I know they have to wear the “leader” hat and I’m okay with that. All I want to know is that they never take off the “friend” hat.
Another important part of these conversations is all in your approach. Always remember to ask questions and never make assumptions. This is really a general rule of healthy communication, but it’s particularly important when communicating with friends.
I learned this the hard way the first “correctional” conversation I was a part of. I had just been promoted to a leadership position and was asked confront a friend of mine. I had an idea of the situation at hand but was not fully prepared for the task at hand. Unfortunately for my friend, I ended up rattling off a bunch of statements about their supposed situation and never gave them an opportunity to speak up for themselves. Later, I sat down with the individual one-on-one and they expressed how they had felt attacked and accused by me rather than supported and valued. It was a painful lesson to learn. Fortunately, my friend was very gracious toward me and it did not affect our relationship.
The key to making these interactions successful is always keeping the heart of the other person a priority.
It doesn’t mean giving everyone what they want all the time. Often it means that the other person won’t agree with your decisions at all but disagreement does not mean you’re being a bad friend or leader. Clear communication and seeking to understand the other person should be your goal. Successfully doing these things will prevent wounds and maintain friendships.
If you don’t feel prepared for these conversations, seek advice from your pastor or someone who can offer wisdom and sound counsel.
Just because you’re a leader doesn’t mean you have to have all the answers.
Nor does it mean that you should be isolated. Part of being a good leader is knowing when to ask for help. Always stay open for feedback and give yourself grace to learn and grow since leadership can definitely have a steep learning curve.
A final encouragement for you is to remember that if you’ve been put in a position of authority, then you have been given the right to speak into the lives of those who follow you. Also, by joining your team, your team members have agreed to submit to your leadership. You are qualified by position. You’ve got this.