From Friend to Boss

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What’s the quickest way to lose a friend? Become their boss.

Becoming a boss is an exciting time, but it’s also fraught with dangers. Managing people who used to be your peers can be a minefield just waiting to explode.

New managers need to take the time to establish their credibility and authority without seeming like they are now drunk with power.

Let’s look at five (5) quick tips which can help you navigate the minefield of going from peer to boss.


  1. Announce the transition

Your role has changed. Ideally, your current boss will announce the change to the team and parents. It’s really important that everyone understands your new role and responsibilities. You can also help to announce the transition by having 1:1 meetings with each of your team members. These can be awkward at first, but if you make them casual meetings and start by asking; “what are your expectations of me as your manager?” “How can I best support you?” You should also take this time to establish your authority as a leader. This doesn’t mean that you should start telling people what to do. Rather you should take the time to listen to their concerns, and assert your authority in a positive way….think extra annual leave, additional resources, learning and development etc.


  1. Be a butterfly

Fly around. Be pretty, say nice things, make no enemies for the first 3 months at least. You probably have lots of new ideas about how to lead the team, but you want to avoid making any big changes in the first 3 months. You can make a few small changes in the first few months, especially if they are seen as positive. However, delay any big decisions until after you’ve had time to chat with the team and seek input from them.


  1. Distance yourself from your former peers

When you become the boss, the dynamic between you and your former peers changes completely. People start to watch you like never before. You need to recalibrate your existing friendships. Unfortunately, you can’t continue to have the close relationships you had before. Failing to recalibrate those relationships will leave you open to the accusation of playing favorites. You want to avoid staff-room gossip sessions. You might need to be less available for social gatherings. You don’t want to become unapproachable. You just need to signal a slight change in the relationship. You’re no longer their peer. You are now the person who delegates work, gives feedback and manages complaints.


  1. Build your new network

You may need to distance yourself from your peers, but a whole new network of people has just opened up to you. You have a new boss to build a relationship with and new leaders who have now become your peers. Think about how you’re going to build your leadership network. You can see the development of your leadership network through 3 different lenses. Operational, personal and strategic networking.  Operational networking is building relationships with people who are going to help you succeed at getting the tasks done. This could be suppliers, families and other managers. Personal networks are largely external to the service and are comprised of people who have similar interests or responsibilities. Finally, and most importantly is your strategic network. This is your network of influences, industry leaders, change agents, experts and people who may seem unconnected to your current role, but will provide invaluable information in keeping you ahead of the game.


  1. Demonstrate your leadership style

Now that you’ve been promoted you have a great opportunity to try out different leadership personas. We are not one, but many selves. Our leadership style will be defined by many things, who we hope to become or even who we fear becoming. When you become a leader, you have an opportunity to try out different selves, different leadership styles. Try new things, tell different stories, use trial and error with your leadership practice. Just like you have developed a style as an Educator, it’s now time to develop a leadership persona. How will you delegate? How will you celebrate? How will you communicate? You as a leader, what do you stand for and what do you believe in?


Going from peer to boss can be a minefield to navigate, but with the right support and guidance, you’ll become a leader that’s respected and admired.


Are you learning to lead? The Educator Leadership Academy is the place to start.


About the author:
Adrian Pattra is the Education Director of Farran Street Education. In this role, he manages the day-to-day operational and educational outcomes. Adrian has been involved in adult education for the past 15 years, he holds a Bachelor of Education and a Master in Educational Psychology. Adrian has worked with a range of Children Service’s organisations, providing them with the tools to improve their competency and learning frameworks, while creating a culture of continuous learning.  For the past 20 years, Adrian together with his family has a small long day care service on Sydney’s lower north shore.