[May 10, 2018] Leadership, in its most fundamental capacity, is not that different from a deep friendship. If a good friend calls upon you to help, then most of us would go to them as quickly as possible. In my first tour of combat in the Iraq War, I had a friend tell me, If you call, I’ll be there.
This was, of course, immensely reassuring that I could count on another peer for help (irrespective of the rules and chain of command) if things went bad in a gunfight with the enemy. He said it mattered not what he was doing or where his unit was, they would come riding in like the cavalry in old Western movies.
Friendship is made up of trust, loyalty, respect, selflessness, and openness. The same can be said for great leadership. If we were to go back to the beginnings of humankind, we would see these very qualities in all surviving relationships. Social scientists have looked across modern cultures and cannot dispute these facts.
I’ve come to also realize that in either a close friendship or in quality leadership, support is unconditional. It’s true that friends sometimes have different values and interests but true friends still offer support to each other. If you need someone, you know they will be there for you.
In a good article by Amy Clites on her blog ZeitClites.com, she writes that there are seven essential elements of a successful friendship.1 Her article could have been written about successful leadership. In particular, I like her number two, “A good friend gives you their best self.” This means more than getting along, it means they are there regardless how bad things are for you.
Fortunately, I never had to call upon my friend to send in the cavalry but it was always in the back of my mind. I too, in later combat tours in Iraq would say the same of those I knew. We would be there if needed. That is, in any culture, loyalty and is highly valued over all other traits of leadership.