One of my first bosses told me that to be successful it’s much more important that people fear you than like you. He cautioned that my inclination to be friendly and “too nice” to the people who worked for me in my new managerial role would be a derailer in my climb to the top.
I must admit that, as I looked at the people who held the highest positions in the company, most were pretty intimidating and gruff. “Is that what was necessary to be successful here?,” I wondered. “Should people be quaking in their shoes when I walked down the halls?” I knew that I could not change my personality that dramatically, nor did I want to. I enjoyed getting to know the people on my team and I believed that I could be liked and respected at the same time, without using fear.
A great Inc.com post summed up ten behaviors seen in leaders who are liked rather than feared. My favorites were:
- Smile without smirking
- Give without receiving
- Promise without forgetting
- Be honest without deceiving
- Be positive without reservation
And I would add three more practices that demonstrate leadership and likability:
- Appreciate without caveats – showing genuine appreciation for the efforts put forth by the people around you sets likable leaders apart. They acknowledge individuals, teams, successes, and even failures consistently, and they do it without tossing in what could have been done better or what greater effort they expect the next time. They express gratitude clearly and wholeheartedly.
- Be present without distraction – there is nothing more frustrating than to get time with your boss and then spend the majority of the meeting looking at her back, waiting for her to take “one quick call,” or seeing her regularly checking her phone for messages. People love leaders who make them feel as if they are the only person who matters at the moment, who is able to remain focused and attentive to the present rather than allowing themselves to be pulled away from what or whom they are currently engaged with.
- Be humorous without sarcasm – A sense of humor is a great gift in likability. Being able to laugh at yourself or the circumstance lightens things up for everyone. However, if your humor is biting and sarcastic it can leave others feeling hurt or wary of further interaction.
To be the best leader you can be, think about what you like and appreciate about those around you and use these likability leadership tips liberally.
What do the likable leaders in your life practice regularly?
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I really liked this particular article regarding leadership. This very same conversation came up the other day with a group of women on a webinar. The topic of women in leadership came up. We grappled with the conflicting ideas on opposite sides of the coin regarding demeanor. If you are a women in leadership and perceived as too nice then you are cast as a weak leader. If you get the job done, and present a “rude or hostile” demeanor then you are the expletive or equivalent of a female dog, but a “good leader”. I sincerely believe that you can be a decent human being as a leader without being too nice and by being firm in what you stand for or believe. I think it is important to be: a. genuine b. consistent
c. level headed d. innovative e. inspiring f. transparent g. present and h. fair
Great to hear from you! Thank you for sharing your thoughts about women in leadership. Finding that balance is something we often hear in our coaching conversations. Your list of characteristics certainly represent those of a strong, effective — and, dare I say, likable — leader.