The qualities that make a great leader also make a great friend. Nobody wants to think of their social life as a business that needs management, but many of the best leadership techniques can apply to our lives outside of work. Here’s a look at some people who have set good examples in their respective professions, and how you can apply those qualities to your daily social life.
Don’t Take Credit, Give It
“A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.” – Arnold H. Glasgow
Our brains often fool us into thinking that taking credit and earning recognition matters most. When you have to tell someone what good you’ve done, you’ll rarely succeed. People judge your character based on the choices you make, and that applies more to your personal relationships than it does at the office.
When good things happen to your group of friends, recognise it. When good friends win awards for their work or accomplish a life goal, sing their praises and ignore your own even if you share some of the credit. How you appear to strangers rarely matters, but your friends will see and know your generosity.
By doing this, you accomplish two things. First, you make someone you care about look good because you praised them. It didn’t come from them and didn’t sound like bragging. Although people may feel a little shy or embarrassed by compliments, everyone likes them. You’ll make a friend happy by telling others of their accomplishments, and maybe even help them grow further. Second, you set an example. When you achieve something great, they’ll remember your actions and likely repeat them. No one will have to brag for themselves, and everyone will look good.
Show Your Strength In Times Of Trouble
“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.” – Nelson Mandela
You demonstrate who you really are in difficult situations. The best characteristics of leaders emerge in these moments and you have an excellent opportunity to forge strong bonds with your friends when bad things happen.
Whether you take a friend to the doctor when they’re feeling too sick to take themselves, do things for them when they’re grieving, or help them find a job during a long period of unemployment, your strength during any hardship — even one you share — brings you both together better than anything else. David McRaney, author of You Are Not So Smart and You Are Now Less Dumb, explains a study that demonstrates this:
In 2008, psychologist James Graham at the University of North Carolina conducted a study to see what sort of activities kept partners bonded. He had 20 couples who lived together carry around digital devices while conducting their normal daily activities. Whenever the device went off, they had to use it to text back to the researchers and tell them what they were up to. They then answered a few questions about their mood and how they felt toward their partners. After over a thousand of these buzz-report-introspect-text moments, he looked over the data and found couples who routinely performed difficult tasks together as partners were also more likely to like each other. Over the course of his experiments, he found partners tended to feel closer, more attracted to and more in love with each other when their skills were routinely challenged. He reasoned the buzz you get when you break through a frustrating trial and succeed, what Graham called flow, was directly tied to bonding.
It doesn’t matter whether the going gets tough or not — when challenges present themselves, you demonstrate the quality of your character no better than by confronting it head on with your friends. Doing so cements relationships and helps them grow.
Encourage Good Decisions And Avoid Deliberation
“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a moulder of consensus.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
Many of us waffle around a decision, trying to come to a consensus by asking others what they want. Leaders decide. Of course, you want to take the thoughts of others into account but deliberating endlessly can result in poor choices — and that’s assuming everyone manages to come to a consensus in the first place. When great leaders want to avoid wasting time, they put forward the solution they prefer and help everyone feel ownership of that idea. This applies to everything from work projects to choosing a movie or restaurant.
How? When you need to make that decision, encourage your friends with direct questioning and suggestion. For example:
I feel like seeing a movie. I heard “In a World…” is funny. Would you like to see a movie?”
The trick: start vague, get specific, then ask a vague question this is likely to receive “yes” for an answer. It breaks down like this:
You demonstrate you want to see a movie.
You suggest a movie you’d like to see.
You ask your friend if they’d like to see a movie.
When they say yes, they may also say yes to your suggestion. If not, just ask them outright if they want to see the movie you want to see. Don’t ask them if they want to see something else. Stick to yes or no questions. Your initial suggestion included the information that the movie is good/funny/cool/whatever. When they think about whether or not they want to go, you just tilted the scales in your favour by providing a positive review.
As stupid as this may make us seem as human beings, we’re extremely susceptible to the power of suggestion. Even something we hear seconds earlier from a person we trust will subconsciously register. According to the Association of Psychological Science, this happens as a result of something called “response expectancies”:
[W]hat can explain the powerful and pervasive effect that suggestion has in our lives? The answer lies in our ‘response expectancies,’ or the ways in which we anticipate our responses in various situations. These expectancies set us up for automatic responses that actively influence how we get to the outcome we expect. Once we anticipate a specific outcome will occur, our subsequent thoughts and behaviours will actually help to bring that outcome to fruition.
When you want to reach a decision quickly, you just have to create a response expectancy in your friend. To do so, remember the breakdown: make a suggestion, provide a specific option, and then ask your friend if they want to do it. You’ll save yourself a lot of time that you’d otherwise waste deliberating over practically nothing.
“A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.” – Max Lucado
“Be yourself” tops the ranking of things more easily said than done. Allowing people to know us honestly and see our darker sides scares the crap out of us. When people truly know you, and your honesty wins out over the desire to hide, you gain freedom but open yourself up to a lot of criticism. Look at it this way: you don’t like most people, and most people won’t like you. While you can’t change how others feel, you avoid additional criticism the more you remain unknown. That said, you don’t obtain anything that matters by keeping yourself to yourself.
Great leaders get over this vulnerability so they can take their crazy ideas out of their head and share them with the world. Some of those crazy ideas have become the gadgets we all know and love, or the entertainment we enjoy every day. The same applies socially with groups of friends. You can spend time with a variety of people and enjoy yourself, but truly great friendships exist because like-minded people find each other.
You can’t expect to find anyone you feel truly close with if you hide who you really are. Full honesty might scare you, but the greatest leaders use it to convince others that they’re actually great. They don’t have to say it, but demonstrate it through who they are. When you do the same in your personal relationships, you may weaken some but you’ll strengthen others — the ones that matter — far more.
Set Expectations Through Yourself
“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” – Steve Jobs
“Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you. Never excuse yourself.” – Henry Ward Beecher
You can’t force others to change, but you can set an example. When you don’t like a behaviour, hold yourself to a standard that doesn’t allow for it. As a leader this applies to work, but in your personal life the same principle can apply to anything.
For example, if a friend does something that hurts you, don’t retaliate. Rather, make yourself a model by showing respect and pointing out the problem so you can move forward in a manner that you prefer. Good friends will learn from this. On the smaller side of things, if you hate people who park their car poorly and make parking difficult for others, never allow yourself to take the easy road and park your car lazily. Even little standards like this show your friends that you want to be the better person. Many will adopt your example.