These days, leaders, like many parents, have the game twisted.
Leaders, though you care about your employees’ well-being and emotional health, you are not there to be all buddy-buddy with your employees. Parents, though you care about your child’s happiness, they can make friends of their own.
All in all, leaders and parents are there to guide those for whom they are responsible. Sometimes that guidance will result in pleasure. Other times it will result in punishment. There are policies and rules, respectively, for a reason. Failing to teach them is crippling your employee/child because, as (s)he grows, there will be a sense of both entitlement and undeniable ignorance to the realities of structured systems, complete with checks and balances.
Stop playing BFF and make the hard decisions that others would be uncomfortable to make. I’m sure they make you uncomfortable too. Guess what? Suck it up. That’s why you make the big dollars.
Make professional development a priority.