The Essential Friendship Every Leader Must Have

“As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” – Proverbs 27:17

I have a handful of close friends I consider my “you’re being an idiot friends.” Now, that may not be a very positive way to put it, but you get my point. These are friends who wouldn’t (and haven’t) hesitate to tell me when they think I’m veering off-course.

These are friends I wanted to meet David when we were dating. Just to make sure he passed their inspection.

They’re the ones I run ideas by for my business.

They’re my go-to calls when I need a voice of reason on a big decision I’m about to make.

I’m just as grateful for the moments they’ve confronted me as when they’ve encouraged me.

This type of friendship is important for everyone. However, I think it’s even more crucial for those in leadership positions. The more influence you have or the more impressive-sounding title you possess, the greater the temptation is for others to want you to think well of them. They’ll stroke your ego and say all your ideas are inspired (even when they’re awful). As Andy Stanley relayed at a Catalyst One Day event, a newly minted CEO was informed that, “all his jokes were about to get a lot funnier.”

If you don’t already have a few of these truth-telling friends, here are a few qualities to look for:

Quality #1: They’re constantly living out their faith according to Scripture

This doesn’t mean they’re perfect and never have a bad day, but it’s easy to tell that they’re devoted to Christ.

Quality #2: They don’t depend on you for a paycheck

If it comes down to feeding their family versus telling you the truth, it’s too tempting to just stay silent. If you’re the senior pastor, I hope you have people on your leadership team who’re strong enough to be brutally (yet still respectfully) honest. However, you still need truth-telling friends outside of that group.

Quality #3: They aren’t overly impressed by your accomplishments

Yes, you want friends who’ll celebrate wins with you. However, they should also be the folks who’ve seen your less-then-awesome moments and maintain a balanced view.

Quality #4: They care more about your relationship with God than they do about staying in your good graces

There may come a point when they need to tell you something you don’t want to hear.

Quality #5: They want you to hold them accountable just as much as they’re willing to hold you accountable

If someone is only interested in telling you what you’re doing wrong, that’s a complainer not a friend. You want friends who value their own walk with Christ so much that they’re willing to be confronted if needed.

Quality #6: Time of day (or night) isn’t an issue

Sometimes the middle of the night is when our fears and failures jump out at us the most.  If you need to talk, you need friends who’ll pick up the phone.

If you already have this type of friendship, keep investing in the relationship and be that type of friend as well. If you’re lacking brutally honest friends, ask God to bring that into your life and seek it out. Your relationship with God and with your family, plus those under your leadership will all reap the rewards.