Be a Friend
Randy Wolken, President & CEO

Balancing your role as a leader and a friend is one of the hardest things to do as a leader. Senior leaders have an especially challenging time doing this—especially during a time of crisis and economic uncertainty.

There is a reason why the top position is often the loneliest. You are responsible for the wellbeing of everyone in the company and the long-term vitality of the company. I am in just such a position. I also work with hundreds of other top leaders that face the same challenge. It’s a balancing act, and it can be a real struggle.

Making strategic decisions that affect my staff’s lives is the hardest thing I do as a leader. If you have ever needed to let someone go, you know it is the most painful task for anyone. In this economic downturn, I know many leaders who have had to furlough many individuals. This affects not only them but the many family members dependent upon those jobs. Sometimes a particular person is not a good fit for a job. Letting someone go may be in the best interests of everyone. However, making that decision and following through is gut-wrenching.

Through it all, those leaders who are friends first seem to fare the best. Being as kind as we can is critical. Acknowledging the pain that is present is essential. Offering hope when you can is vital. The best senior leaders I have ever worked for or with knew how to be a good friend first and used these characteristics to lead well.

Being a good friend takes work, just like being a good spouse or parent. We have to be available when needed. We sometimes have to show tough love by being firm and resolved. Good friends go out of their way to help others. They are quick to praise and compliment. They smile and laugh and are easy to be around.

What are the best qualities of friends you see in the good leaders you know? How has that helped them lead? How can you be a better friend in these trying times? We all need a friendly hand during this pandemic.

I always try to remember this when I am striving to lead in difficult times. It reminds me that what we do is tough. However, we can still be friends and lead. It’s what we as humans want from each other the most.