Leaders Are No Longer Friends

Leaders Are No Longer Friends



I grew up watching Friends, a world famous sitcom from the US. It’s about a group of friends who goes through early adult life together. My favorite character in the group is Chandler Bing. He’s a goofy, sarcastic and nerdy guy. In one episode, he’s promoted from a normal employee to being a manager. He gets his own office and new responsibilities and authority which comes with his new role. Chandler quickly realizes that his coworkers, who he considered to be his friends are now distant. He’s now their leader and are no longer treated as one of their friends.


Water cooler talks he enjoyed with his coworkers before is no longer the same. Each time Chandler approaches them at the water cooler to join in the conversation, they end abruptly and leave. All of the after work social events they shared before also has changes, as Chandler is no longer invited. He’s no longer part of that group and no longer their friend.


If you’re a newly promoted leader, you may find yourself experiencing very similar situation as did Chandler. This is quite normal and is to be expected. In your new role as the leader, you are now responsible for the progress, work quality and delivery from your team. Here are changes in the relationship dynamic that you should be aware of


  • Levels– Those who were your equal are now your subordinates. You are now at different levels and interactions between you must adjust accordingly. Former coworkers now have to respect your role and you must respect the responsibility you have towards them.
  • Performance– Understand that if they don’t perform, you are responsible. You will have to take actions to ensure that they produce as expected. As much as you’re still part of the team, your responsibility to the team is greater. In addition, your responsibility to the business also has increased. It is now up to you to deliver on performance from each and every member.
  • Discipline– The most dreaded part of the leadership role is to have to discipline a team member. But that is the reality of the situation. If your former coworker is out of line, you must discipline them. Conversations you may have shared in the past where you mocked the business or a supervisor can’t be shared anymore. Situations where you slacked off during work or played hooky for a day are not kept from you. This is obviously normal and to be expected.
  • Career– You as their new leader are now responsible for their career paths. How well they are judged and what promotion they may have in the future are now in your hands. They must worry about what you think and how you view them. You are no longer on the same level.


Throughout the Friends episode, Chandler struggled with this new change. He wanted things to be the same, but ultimately understood that it’s not the same. And it can’t be the same. He came to terms with the situation and so will you. It may take some time and you may feel like you’re disliked by your former friends. But that may not be the case. It may just be that they are showing you the respect and the distance required for the new position you’ve been promoted to.



Photo by: wayhomestudio


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