Monday, March 25, 2013

Leading Friends

A definition of friend leadership

Friend leadership occurs when a peer, within a predominantly homogeneous group, is selected by someone outside the group to oversee, guide, and care for his group and accomplish objectives that are imposed externally, as well as developed internally.  This homogeneous group is similar in age, experience, and expertise.  Typically, the group has been together for an extended period of time and interacted as peers, without any senior-subordinate relationship.  The peer who has been raised to a leadership position also has a number of close personal relationships with individuals within the group.  Friend leadership is a distinct subset of peer leadership, differentiated by the group’s homogeneity and intimate social ties.  When a West Point cadet becomes a Platoon Commander, when an Air Force Academy cadet becomes the Wing Commander, when a Naval ROTC midshipman becomes a Battalion Commander, these individuals will, by definition, be leading friends.

The unique characteristics of friend leadership

Friend leadership has a unique set of characteristics that cause this type of leadership to be particularly demanding.  Though some of these attributes can be found in more traditional leadership settings, they have a tendency to dominate in friend leadership.  These characteristics are:

-       The friend leader is trying to find the balance between leading and maintaining friendships.
-       The friend leader typically has limited leadership experience at the level to which appointed.  This results in a crisis of confidence.
-       The leader is experiencing loyalty tensions—the tension among loyalty to the organization, loyalty to the group, loyalty to individuals, and loyalty to himself.
-       The friend leader has limited authority to punish or reward his subordinates.
-       Some members of the group feel jealousy towards the appointed friend leader.
-       Some members of the group question the selection process that elevated the peer to a leadership position.
-       Conflict resolution between the friend leader and group members is particularly challenging.

Because of these unique attributes, friend leaders need to develop and demonstrate certain personal attributes and implement specific strategies to become successful.  These attributes and strategies are outlined in the following sections.

From Colonel Arthur J. Athens' paper
Leading Friends  

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