How to be a Leader People Like – Without being Needy

Leaders who need to be liked are lawn chairs blown in hurricanes. Leaders who don’t care if they’re liked are jerk-holes.

We resist leaders we don’t like – but if we like each other, we are likely to be influenced by each other. In other words…

Liking is a channel of influence.


People prefer to say yes to those that they like. Robert Cialdini

Should you worry about being liked?

Worry if your team dislikes you. People we don’t like seem wrong, stupid, or both – even if they’re smart.

Choosing to be disliked is absurd unless you are disliked by shared adversaries. (You tend to like people who are disliked by people who dislike you.)

“People prefer to say yes to those that they like.” Robert Cialdini

How to be liked*:

  1. Find common ground. We like people who are like us.
  2. Give genuine compliments. We like people who like us.
  3. Cooperate. We like people who help us achieve shared goals.

*Watch: Science of Persuasion

Read: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion


Do you see anything offensive or ineffective in the above list of three ways to be liked? I hope not!

As long as you’re authentic and genuine, things like finding common ground, giving compliments, and cooperating enhance your leadership.

Cooperate by helping people reach their goals, for example. (As long as personal goals don’t collide with organizational values and mission.)

Don’t show up with the goal of being liked. But show up to connect, compliment, and cooperate.

3 dangers of liking:

  1. Saying yes when you should say no.
  2. Sacrificing long-term benefit for warm feelings in the short-term. Your friend, for example, has an irritating habit that hinders their success, but you don’t bring it up.
  3. Blindness to options that come from people you don’t like.

“Getting people to like you is merely the other side of liking them.” Norman Vincent Peale

Can leaders lead when their team doesn’t like them?

What invites people to like you?