Wise leaders have few friends, but many acquaintances.

A mentor once told me, “Wise leaders have few friends, but many acquaintances.”

Depending on your previous work experience, that statement may resonate – or it may just sound like a very cold world. But as we move through the ranks, we learn these words of wisdom usually in the most impactful way possible – the hard way.

One of the most difficult lessons we may learn early on is that “discretion” isn’t something you can opt out of – it’s a must. We’re human and we want everyone to like us. And, the power of holding information that few have access to can be intoxicating. But, we must use prudence when it comes to those individuals we entrust with information. We need to be careful about not only the type of information we share, but the amount of information we divulge.

There is no place for “TMI” in leadership. It may be the first and last time you ever share “Too Much Information.”

The need still exists, however, for us to have a “sounding board(s).” There are times when we need to share our concerns or ideas with others, or acquire input and feedback. But you can’t trust just anyone. This is where your “Board of Advisors” can be invaluable. By turning outward to your trusted board members, you obtain the much-needed perspective that you can’t get internally.

As leaders, we may organically develop a vast network of acquaintances, but not necessarily friends, because to be effective in our leadership role, we can’t be insular – we depend on our connections. These connections exist both within your organization, as well as outside of it – in the community. 

It’s a delicate balance – wanting to be “authentic” and share ourselves with others – while at the same time knowing that we must hold back and not treat our relationships as “one-size-fits-all.” And, having access to information that comes with position, and being mature and judicious in managing that power.

When you’ve been confronted with this challenge, how have you handled it?

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