As the days grow shorter and the summer comes to an end, I am excited because the National Football League (NFL) starts today. I absolutely love football. This league showcases the fastest, strongest and biggest athletes on the planet; they are coached by a no-nonsense group of leaders who insist that each player go all out each and every play for sixty minutes of each game. Success in the NFL is totally dependent for each of the eleven men on the field for each team to play their position and know their role. In the world of professional football they are crystal clear about their expectations for the team and each of its members. It is an exacting business with little margin for error so friendship doesn’t really factor into the decision making. If you are contributing to the team’s success you secure your job and if not, you will be benched, or cut from the team.
As non-sporting leaders, it important that we create environments that are congenial, open and supportive and dare I say, friendly; but we can’t let friendship get in the way of our positions as leaders. I would much prefer to work with people in such a way that we are fortunate enough to call each other friends. It just makes what we do even that more joyful. The reality is that we are not always friends and even when we are friends, we must subordinate friendship to our role as the leader.
So how do you handle the fear that our employees and friends will not like us when act from our roles as leaders? We can look to the example from the NFL and make sure that each person on our teams knows their roles, including us. As leaders, our role is to provide vision, feedback, tools, support and a work environment conductive to success. In a nutshell, this means we must demand of ourselves that we fully play our role as leader, which sometimes means having unpleasant conversations and making unpopular decisions for the good of the team and organization. It also means insisting that everybody else on our team know his or her role and execute it in a manner in accordance to the standards we have set and as mandated by our organizations. The more we play our positions as the leaders and fully embrace it, the easier it becomes to handle the unpleasant parts that come with the role. By fully playing our roles as leaders, we set the tone and a positive example for the rest our team to do the same.