Updated: Jun 15
In leadership, a best friend isn't just a companion; they are a catalyst for growth and achievement. Learn how your bestie can be your secret weapon in the pursuit of leadership greatness.
What is a best friend?
A best friend is someone you can be intimate with. I do not mean in the Biblical sense but in the psychological sense. An intimate friendship, as defined by psychologists, is like having that one person who knows you inside out. It's all about that special connection where you can be completely yourself, spill your heart out, and feel understood without judgment. It's having someone who's got your back no matter what, providing emotional support, and being there through thick and thin. In these friendships, you share your deepest thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and it's all about being real, raw, and vulnerable. It's like having a rock-solid bond that brings comfort, happiness, and growth to both of you.
Why do leaders need best friends?
Having a bestie makes you a better leader by making you happier and healthier.
In recent decades, the number of Americans who have no close friends has increased from 3% to 12%. More and more Americans are reporting loneliness because they lack relationships where they can share their feelings and feel a sense of belonging.
Loneliness seems especially acute in leadership positions, as 70% of new CEOs have reported feeling lonely. Leaders feel isolated and unable to share vulnerabilities, especially when new to the role.
Why does loneliness matter? Research has found that loneliness has the same impact on your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day! As leaders, we need to make sure we are investing in intimate relationships in order to protect our health so that we will have the energy to lead and to be able to work effectively.
Having intimate relationships defeats feelings of loneliness and increases your happiness. In fact, don't stop at one bestie! Americans report higher satisfaction and happiness the more friends they have.
Having a bestie makes you a better leader by encouraging you to have a life outside of work.
As leaders, it is important to have boundaries with work so it does become our identity. Spending time with a best friend can offer a much-needed escape from work-related stress and responsibilities. It allows you to engage in enjoyable activities, have fun, and recharge your energy. By nurturing your personal relationships, you cultivate a sense of fulfillment and happiness outside of work, which can positively impact your overall well-being and mental health and will enable you to work better and longer!
Having a bestie makes you a better leader by helping you think and do better.
We often think of best friends as the listening ear and cheerleader, which is important for our mental health and contributes to our happiness. Another benefit of the listening ear is giving us a chance to bounce ideas off of honest and open people. They may offer a different perspective or help you to come up with novel solutions. We may be able to share things with a bestie that we can't share with a colleague, and by sharing, we can find ways to address work challenges. Best friends will tell you when you are working too hard or they will cheer you on when you think your efforts are in vain. The bestie can inspire you, motivate you to achieve more, and help you overcome self-doubt.
How to cultivate intimate friendships
I hope I have convinced you of the importance of cultivating intimate friendships, but these relationships don't happen magically overnight. You will need to sow the seeds of intimacy to reap the benefits. Here are some ways that will help you develop deeper relationships.
Making time may seem like the most obvious, but it is also the most neglected. When I first moved back to the US, I focused solely on work and did not put any focus on friendships, and it had a negative impact on my stress levels. Now I make sure I have at least one weekly meeting with a friend - maybe a walk, meeting for coffee, a phone call, but I plan out my week to make sure I have at least one time in the week to make a deeper connection. I also try to connect with people on a daily basis - usually by texting. In the past, I sent more cards and emails. The key is to establish a rhythm of connecting and to be intentional about reaching out to friends.
Being present is one of the biggest struggles with friendships these days because of all the modern distractions and pinging. To be present means giving your full, undivided attention. Look them in the eyes, don't check notifications on your phone, ask them questions, summarize what they are saying, reflect their body language, laugh and cry with them, etc. You want your friend to feel like they are the only person in the world when you are with them. Demonstrate how important they are to you by focusing all of your attention on them. I still struggle with this, but I have friends who excel at practicing presence, and I just want to spend more time with them!
Be Honest (and kind!)
The key factor of an intimate relationship is openness and honesty in both directions. However, you might be a bully if you don't sprinkle it with kindness.
You need to be willing to share your fears, hurts, pains, and mistakes to be vulnerable and open up deeper ties with your friends.
You also want to be honest about issues they may be causing, but these you must handle more carefully to protect your friendship. Be careful not to give advice that isn't solicited. If it is an issue between the two of you, use "I" Statements and focus on observable behaviors and the impact they had. Then try to help find solutions so you can protect your relationship.
Become a better leader by having a best friend
Now you know that you can become an even better leader by investing in intimate relationships outside of work. You will be happier and healthier. You will have more energy for work and have more ideas to face your challenges. So make a commitment to dedicate time in your week to cultivating intimacy by being present and vulnerable with people you enjoy being around.
Read my story
Friendships matter to me because I have tried to power through on my own. Read about my struggle with anxiety, panic attacks, infertility, depression and burnout and how I found a life of balance and purpose.