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.
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*:
- Find common ground. We like people who are like us.
- Give genuine compliments. We like people who like us.
- 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:
- Saying yes when you should say no.
- 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.
- 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?
Good morning Dan,
I haven’t responded in some time, but wanted to respond on this one. I agree that when the people we lead genuinely like us, they tend to go the extra mile and be more engaged. I also believe that we can hold people accountable and still have a good relationship where we like each other. This does require clearly communicated and aligned expectations. It’s the best way to role.
I did have a couple of experiences working for leaders that were not likable. One acted as if it was their mission and part of their role to not be liked, but feared. It spilled over to the entire team. It was terrible. The second was so scared that they made it difficult or impossible to develop any kind of relationship. No one inside or outside the department “liked” this leader.
Unfortunately, one continued to move up in the organization. The other was eventually let go. Both drove high performers from the organization.
Great seeing you Jay. Thanks for dropping in today. The ability to have good relationships AND have tough conversations can go hand-in-hand. As you indicate. Have clear expectations. I almost never say no to our grandchildren. But when I do, I say it quickly, firmly, and move back to the fun stuff.
What are the things that link being liked with being respected? I think you need some of each (preferably a lot of each) to be an effective leader. Which matters more?
Thanks Rich. It’s pretty hard to like someone you don’t respect. It seems they are closely connected. Although, it’s clearly possible to dislike someone and respect them. You might respect their skill or achievements, for example, but not like them as a person.
How does this sound? You can respect someone and not like them.
Can you like someone and NOT respect them? You might like a colleague because they’re fun at a party, but not respect their inability to meet deadlines.
In my industry, and I presume in most industries, a key factor resulting in a lack of diversity and inclusivity is that we focus SO much, during hiring/recruitment, on finding the “right person” or a “cultural fit”.
I really like this . . . “How to be Liked: 1. Find common ground. We like people who are like us.”
But, how can we ensure that we’re diving deep enough during the hiring process and subsequently in relationships as leaders, to ensure that we aren’t drawn only to those who sound like us, look like us, or have the same background/experience as us?
Thanks for this post, Dan!
These are really good questions (and it is a very timely article–my mid-year review was all about influence). Maybe the article is about how leaders should choose to show up, not how they should evaluate other people, either during hiring or subsequent interactions.
“How #1” seems to be the hardest to understand and apply. What does it mean for someone to “be like me?” Character? Intersectional identity? Personality (MBTI, Big Five, DISC, etc)? Position on the applicability of agile methodologies to our work?
We all want to be liked for sure, aside from likes and dislikes, it is acceptance on a common ground for people, all are working for same company, Church, School, etc. So put aside the indifferences and get the job done. We all can work together, just don’t have to live together. Outside of work look at Religious choices we are all one until we decide to separate, just like politics, and the wheel keeps on turning. Just learn to accept each other for who they are, and what they may or may not have to offer.
Dan again what a post it clearly defines everything as U have said in one of your previous that one commitment with several options protects me from over commitment and enables me to control the practice instead of the practice controlling me. now I understand it more here and for me it is directly linked ! Thanks for the helping people like us and for these lovely piece of advices.