Recently I commented on What Makes a Leader Likeable by Dave Kerpen (Author of the book, "Likeable Business") which was a featured post in a LinkedIn Group that I belong to. After posting my response, I decided I would expand on my thoughts about leadership and likeability, with my own blog post “Likeable Leaders. My View”
We have all heard the saying that great leaders are respected, not liked. And yes this might be true. However, Jeffrey Gitomer, Author of The Little Book of Leadership: The 12.5 Strengths of Responsible, Reliable, Remarkable Leaders That Create Results, Rewards, and Resilience, sheds light on why it is important to be liked as a leader – a point that I think is worthwhile considering. (NB: I am not an affiliate for this book).
Now, although I studied leadership as part of my undergraduate degree, I am no leadership expert. The following points have been derived from thinking about the different leaders I have worked with or admire in life; and what it was about these people, that made me either like them or not. From my observation and experience, I believe the following:
1. Likeable leaders don’t seek to be liked
The leaders I have liked and aspire to were humble leaders – with a high level of self-awareness and care factor for others. They were passionate about the role of leading and their mission and were focused on and committed to, getting the job done. And needing approval from others was never part of their job description.
2. Likeable leaders are emotionally intelligent
Leaders are frequently faced with difficult problems, people, situations and decisions – often having to make a judgement call with limited information, time, or other constraints. Sometimes the situation is not black or white and it requires the ability to dig deep and weigh up options that have no perfect or preferred outcome. This can weigh heavily on the conscious of a more ethical leader, but because of qualities such resilience, depth of character and trust in one’s own ability to accept and rationalise a particular judgement call - progress is made. An emotionally intelligent leader understands that no two scenarios or people are the same and that every person has their own set of problems, personal weaknesses, complexities and life challenges to overcome. Emotional intelligence is something that is both earned and learned in order to acquire the unique ability to influence others.
3. Likeable leaders are authentic
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4. Likeable leaders are approachable
Being approachable means people feel comfortable telling you both the good stuff and the bad stuff – without fear of retribution or ridicule. Trust is an important part of the relationship between a leader and his/her followers. How else can problems and challenges be faced and overcome, if no-one feels like they can say what is on their mind?
5. Likeable leaders are respectful
A smart leader knows that if they want to earn respect, they have to give respect - and that starts with conducting oneself with a high level of personal integrity, and being sincere when taking into consideration the needs and opinions of others. They don’t look at the people under their charge as subordinates, but rather as valued team members contributing to a greater cause.
6. Likeable Leaders remain objective and fair
Effective leaders remain objective when making a judgement call in their daily course of business. They don’t jump to conclusions and they don’t take sides. They also don’t keep secrets, they don't gossip and most of all, they don’t have favourites. Instead they do their research, get their facts straight and review all the contributing factors before remove any self-prejudices when making a decision.
7. Likeable leaders would rather empower others
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Empowerment on the other hand requires a more generous, selfless and outward focus on others; which ultimately stems from a leader being comfortable with their own sense of self, values,achievements, knowledge, experiences and failings. Leaders who prefer to empower others derive satisfaction from helping, mentoring and guiding others to be their very best, through cultivating a greater sense of awareness, possibility and conviction to overcome and succeed.
8. Likeable leaders understand the true meaning of servant leadership
True leaders understand that they are doing a service for others. They understand that they are using their own skills, talents, inspiration and motivation to set a standard and make a difference in inspiring others to commit to a greater purpose. They understand that their job is to lead well, with courage, fortitude, moral conviction and integrity as they take their people with them on the journey to something more. Servant leaders are responsible and accountable and this sends a positive and empowering message to their followers.
9. Likeable leaders entrust their team to do the job at hand
10. Likeable leaders take a situational approach
Most of the effective leaders I have liked have been advocates of the Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership approach whereby a leader adapts his/her leadership style to suit the level of maturity of the people he/she is leading. Of course, I do think personality and behaviour (e.g. how you are treated) impact how this model works, but it has been proven to work. For example, I will tolerate being micro-managed, but I perform more effectively when I am left to do my job, are spoken to with respect and are appreciated for what I do.
11. Likeable leaders give credit when it's due and don't steal it
12. Likeable Leaders know when to explain the "why" when making a tough decision
All leaders are faced with having to make tough decisions – that is the nature of complex environments and uncertain economic times. Effective leaders will make the tough decisions regardless, but those leaders who know how and when to explain their decisions and actions and lessen the blow where necessary – are the sort of individuals you can both respect and like, even if you don’t like the outcome of the decision made.
So there you have it...my view on what makes a likeable leader.
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As Jeffrey Gitomer says in his "Little Book of Leadership": " People want to work for people they like and respect".
Now I am not suggesting that you do everything at all costs to become likeable - that would be silly.. but, reflecting on what makes a a likeable leader is certainly food for thought for some honest self-reflection.
If you would like to learn more about leadership models and theories then check out Leadership Theories by BusinessBalls.com.
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So are you a likeable leader? What other traits, qualities and attributes do you think, make for a likeable leader?