It's not uncommon for managers and leaders to create some type of intentional distance from their people. In my coaching practice I've seen this approach often in newly-promoted people and "old school" execs alike.
After all, they know at some point they may have to give their people bad news -- be it disappointment with a piece of work, a
negative review, or (worst case) a pink slip.
So they adopt a segregated style: "If I get too close, then I won't be able to be tough when needed." Also, be too buddy-buddy with some of their people, but not others, and the criticism of "playing favorites" will be a fair one.
The work environment does a fine job of healthy tension without a leader deliberately adding to it by being artificially distant. When you stand apart, people don't know what to make of it, and that creates more stress, that, over time, disengages them, and makes them reluctant to approach you with the information you need to lead.
In short -- get real with them, or you become a source of tension rather than effective leadership.
Besides, those you WANT working for you -- the ones you should hire and retain -- create their own healthy tension by setting high standards for themselves and their teammates, and doing their best, most days. If you’re not getting your people's best, then you need to first look in the mirror at your own leadership choices and behavior, and then at your roster.Knowing each other -- leader and team -- generates trust that leads to candor and ultimately invites your people to share important information with you in a timely way. Stand apart from your people and you’re going to turn them off from doing their best consistently.
Go ahead and get to know them, and let them know you. The stronger your relationships with those reporting to you, within the boundaries of professionalism, consistency and fairness, the more innovative, creative, and truly outstanding results you can achieve together.