Leadership Lesson: Choose Your Friends Wisely

“Choose your friends wisely.  You will become what they are. ” ~ William T. Slobodian

How do you influence others?

Remember when you were a teenager? Remember when those daily challenges of school and friendships seemed to be all consuming?  I remember one day a friend of mine did something that bothered me.   I was telling my father about it, (most likely I was complaining endlessly to him about it).  At some point during my long dissertation of complaining, my father added his two cents. “Look Larysa, it is important to choose your friends wisely.”  I cut him off and sarcastically finished his sentence for him.  “I know.  I know. Choose your friends wisely because I will be judged by the company I keep, right?!”  I thought that I knew what he was going to say and I was not interested in waiting for him to say it.  To my surprise my father calmly and slowly corrected me.  “No Larysa, I really don’t care what people think about you.  You should choose your friends wisely because you will become what they are.” I stopped complaining.  In fact, I stopped talking.  I was stunned.  Speechless.  He continued. “If you want to be a loser, then hang out with losers.  If you want to think intelligently, hang out with intelligent people, and so on” he added.  And that was it.  End of conversation.

I sat there in my self created large pond of complaints and thought. “Well what have I become.? AND what will people become by hanging around me?” I didn’t feel very smart any more, nor did I feel that I had anything to complain about.  If this person was such a drag on my super important teenage experience, then why did I insist on hanging out with him or her?  And even more terrifying, what influence was I having on them? I wondered.  My initial prediction of his response seemed quite petty.  How other people judged me based on my friendships was meaningless compared to the impact that a person could have on my own development as well as my potential impact on their development.  My father, in his own special way, just turned my world upside down.

That lesson is still with me today.  For one, I choose people as friends and colleagues based on how I see them, (not what others think about them).  Also, I think about the lessons that I can learn from friends and colleagues.  I cherish those lessons as gifts that have greater  impact and last longer than any material present.  And I can honor those gifts by modeling the lessons and sharing them with others.

How do others influence you?

My leadership challenge to you is the following.  What lessons are you learning from the company that you keep? What lessons do you want to employ and what lessons do you want to discard?  Is there somebody that you would like to acknowledge or thank for these lessons?  And is there somebody that you should be spending more time with based on the lessons that you would like to learn?  And finally, what lessons are you teaching others when they are in your company at work and at home?  Are those the lessons that you want to be teaching? And to be clear, I am not suggesting that you pick and choose all your friends and work colleagues based on what you can learn from them or what you can teach them.  I am simply inviting you to pause and be mindful about the lessons that are available to you and what lessons you are modeling for others.

I want to acknowledge my father for this lesson and the numerous other lessons that he taught me.  His teachings are still with me and now I am sharing one of them with you.

Thank you for reading this article.  I wish you courage, strength, joy, support and all the success that you can handle as you continue your leadership journey.  Please share your thoughts and comments on this article in the comments section below.

Larysa Slobodian, MA

Principal Consultant & Executive Coach

L4 Leadership LLC


  1. Sabina Nawaz September 19, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

    Fantastic lesson and clearly a powerful one to have stuck with you Larysa. I love this way of looking at the company we keep and it’s making me reflect what lessons I have exchanged with those close to me.

  2. Ryan Burke September 20, 2012 at 7:39 am #

    Larysa, great article…so true, and I count myself lucky to have you as a friend and colleague. Ryan:)

  3. Larysa Slobodian September 20, 2012 at 8:11 am #

    Thanks Ryan! I am super lucky to have you as a friend and colleague too! Hope all is well.

    Larysa Slobodian
  4. Larysa Slobodian September 20, 2012 at 8:12 am #

    Thanks for reading Sabina and for your comment! I know that I’ve learned plenty of great lessons from you.

    Larysa Slobodian
  5. Steve September 20, 2012 at 9:40 am #

    Super article. Thanks for posting!

  6. Beth September 20, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    Such good advice and so true. :)

  7. Larysa Slobodian September 20, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

    Thanks for reading and commenting Beth! You’re awesome!

    Larysa Slobodian
  8. Ray C September 21, 2012 at 7:03 am #

    I’m looking forward to the discussion that will follow when I ask my 14-year-old daughter to read this. So far, she seems to be choosing the right friends – but just entering high school can quickly derail that. Thank you!

  9. Larysa Slobodian September 21, 2012 at 9:34 am #

    Thanks for reading Ray. Your daughter sounds like a smart one to me. Enjoy your discussion!

    Larysa Slobodian
  10. Caron MacLane September 22, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

    I like how you consider your impact on your friends. It gives me pause to think about that angle, as I am usually focused the other direction of whose company I keep. What do I offer the friends who choose me?

  11. Larysa Slobodian September 22, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

    Thank you Caron. I really resonate with your comment. That angle, (my impact on others) gives me pause too, even though I’m the one who wrote it. :)

    Larysa Slobodian
  12. Jo September 27, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

    Yes, not just a great leadership lesson but a life lesson for all! Well done!!

  13. Lisa September 27, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

    Great advice from father Slobodian. Thank you for passing it on to the next generation and giving it more depth. I have never thought about that angle myself…and now I always will.

  14. Larysa Slobodian October 1, 2012 at 9:39 am #

    Thanks Lisa!

    Larysa Slobodian

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