Leadership Isn’t About Making Friends

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I had my first real job when I was 20-years-old. I filled a vacancy in a Human Resources department.

I wasn’t very good at it. My boss didn’t like me. Whenever I did something wrong, which was daily, the feedback was direct and clear.

Try harder.”

And I did try harder. I tried harder to stack some cheddar and move to London.

But my boss left a lasting impression on me because nothing scared her. Difficult conversations? Drug addicts? Lawyers? Unions? Alleged misappropriation of company funds?

Managing isn’t about making friends

She was fearless because she was right. Competency unburdens you from drama and politics.

And she wasn’t there to make friends.

The biggest moments of growth in my career were the moments when someone wasn’t force-feeding me a lesson in leadership. And the biggest lessons I’ve learned in life were the ones where people spoke honestly and candidly to me about my performance.

I have had a few more bosses like my first one. I do well when someone gives me space, direction and the ability to succeed or fail based on my own abilities.

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Do great work and have some fun

I never do well with someone who asks me how I like to be managed. If you have to ask, we are done. And if you try to inspire me, I won’t respect you.

I know people are different from me. And I know the current thinking is to manage according to different motivating factors and flex your style for different types of people (young, old, creative, professional, blue collar, etc.).

But I also know the difference between what works and what doesn’t. So my leadership style is a hodgepodge. I am a “mean HR lady” and compassionate — but emotionally distant — Gen X slacker. Quite simply, I am a little tired. I like what we are doing but I would rather be at the beach.

Not every moment is a teachable moment. We are all adults. I believe in accountability. We should do great work and have as much fun as realistically possible. But I’m not here to make friends.

What’s your style?

You can find more from Laurie Ruettimann at her blog, The Cynical Girlwhere this originally appeared.


Laurie Ruettimann (LFR) is a former Human Resources leader turned influential speaker, writer and strategist. She owns a human resources consultancy that offers a wide array of HR services to human resources leaders and executives. Check out her LinkedIn profile here. You may know Ruettimann as the creator of The Cynical Girl and Punk Rock HR (retired), which Forbes named as a top 100 website for women. You may have also read her book, I AM HR: 5 Strategic Ways to Break Stereotypes and Reclaim HR. (RepCap Press, 2014.) 


2 Comments on “Leadership Isn’t About Making Friends

  1. Well said. Disappointed that you didn’t tell people to get a dog if they wanted a freind though. It’s such a good line. Oh, wait, you prefer cats.

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