Do you play favorites? Who on your team do you value? Who is staying and who is leaving your team?
I think it’s okay for leaders to have favorites, and by favorites I mean their select go-to players who they heavily lean on and turn to for support, for feedback, and for pulling off critical projects. These individuals are favored because of their willingness to serve and the value they bring to their leader, to their team, and to their organization over time.
I put a heavy burden of responsibility on my favorites. Not only do I expect them to perform at a higher standard, but I also expect them to lead at a higher level. They are favorites because they are willing to sacrifice the freedom of just getting by or just being good at their job. So, if I like someone who works for me and whose performance I am responsible for seeing results from, I make sure and have a one-on-one discussion with them about expectations and how we will operate.
My responsibility as a leader, on the other hand, lies in whom I favor. If I favor someone who the team does not respect because of their incompetence, then my reputation as a leader will go downhill. My standard will be seen as lower, and people will begin to politic their way with me.
And just to be clear, “favorites” are not the same as “buddies.” Favorites are the people we lean and depend on. They’re our performers with whom we’ve forged a close bond because of what we’ve accomplished together and how we’ve supported one another. Buddies, on the other hand, are individuals to whom we grant extra privileges and neglect holding accountable to our usual high standards. Favorites are acceptable, buddies are not.