Early in a new year I have seen an interesting occurrence on Facebook. I would call it a Facebook cleanse – in essence a sorting of their friends list. It’s intriguing to me that they announce the cleanse, that they feel the need to tell us we may or may not make the cut. I wonder what criteria they use to remove or keep people. What denotes a good Facebook friend for them? Will they cut family? High School friends? People who post vulgarity or inappropriate content? People they never really liked anyway but accepted their friend request because they didn’t want them to think they didn’t actually like them? Do their Facebook friends wait anxiously to see if they are still in the club? How much of the ‘announcement’ is their conscience prodding them to share the intention so as not to offend someone? And what has spurred it on?
Friendship is an interesting collection of emotions and rules. I have been ‘ex-friend-ed’ both on Facebook and in real life. I found the real life instance far more challenging than when it happens on social media. I could have been un-friend-ed by a ton of people on Facebook and have no idea because I don’t connect with them regularly. So their lack of presence on my news feed would not be a trigger for me to check our ‘friend’ status. I believe people are absolutely allowed to choose their friends in real life and on social media. I don’t have to understand it, what’s important is that they do.
What is the difference between un-friend-ing people on Facebook versus in real life? Would you announce it by a group email telling people you were cleaning up your friends so stay tuned! Would it be the same criteria as on Facebook? Who’s really involved in your life? Who is adding value? Who will champion you? Who are the people who will recognize you when you show up on their doorstep? Who are the people that are eternally welcome in your home? And how did that kind of friendship occur? How did you build it? Or how did it fall down?
In life and leadership, it is equally important to be cognizant of who you surround yourself with, and why. It is not a mistake when you hear ‘you are only as good as the people you surround yourself with’. Select carefully, select based on solid criteria of what you need and where you need to go, select based on your weaknesses and your strengths. Select a team of people who are not only with you, but for you.

There is a photograph of Will Smith that circulates on social media, and one that I have kept that quotes him saying “If you’re absent during my struggle, don’t expect to be present during my success.”
I like that quote and I quite like Will Smith because when I hear him speak I feel like we have some similarities in how we see the world. Specifically what I like about that quote is that it reminds me of the people who stood with me through some pretty challenging or destructive periods in my life. What I didn’t realize in the midst of all that discomfort and fog is that they were actually leading me – their encouragement, their steadfastness, their commitment to me unequivocally added to, if not endorsed my successes. It’s important to note that I am not just referencing financial or professional successes. I have had many personal successes that are linked to the other successes. 
It is these same people who celebrate me without being envious of me, people who correct me but not criticize me, people who have waited for me, chased me, endured me and believed in me. Having your best people around you will make you a better leader, and will absolutely give you the opportunity to take advantage of your own personal greatness. I assure you they are out there, I assure you it is build-able, I assure you it will take time and reciprocated commitment. Your ability to lead is indelibly connected to your circle of trust.
“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Sir Isaac Newton

Go find your giants.