You work hard and get good results from your team, yet the vibe of the office is not very positive and upbeat. You wish you had the kind of team that your colleague, Stacey, has. Her team seems to genuinely enjoy working together, raves about her style of managing, and is consistently recognized for their stellar work. “She really lucked out with the folks she inherited and hired,” you think to yourself. But in reality, it may not be luck at all. Stacey may understand the importance of likability in leadership.

A recent Harvard Business Review blog post by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman noted that people perform better and have a greater connection to their work when they like their leader. That may seem obvious, but being likable is something that most leaders don’t spend time thinking about and, in fact, may even see as a “touchy-feely” characteristic that doesn’t fit their image of a strong, results-focused leader. In fact, the ability to engage and connect easily with others is a true leadership strength that cannot be pushed aside.

Zenger and Folkman’s research looked at 360° feedback data for thousands of leaders and found a direct correlation between likability and leadership effectiveness. People find it easy to get behind leaders they like. And best of all, the research found that likability can be developed and enhanced through specific actions and behavior, such as increasing positive emotional connections with others, having integrity, cooperating rather than competing, being a coach and mentor, inspiring others, being a visionary, and asking for feedback.

In addition, we have seen these principles work to build leaders others will clamor to follow:

  • Admit mistakes and be OK with being fallible – When you can own up to ideas that did not produce as you had hoped or decisions that did not pan out, others will see you as accessible and open to taking risks.
  • Increase your self-awareness – The more you know about yourself – your strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, preferences, values, and beliefs – the more you can adapt and grow to enable the development of others.
  • Demonstrate an ease with differences and ambiguity – Leaders who are open to different perspectives, cultures, and values are able to bridge divides, find opportunity where others miss, and embrace the benefits of diversity and change.
  • Use humor – Injecting humor or a compelling story in your communication also increases the likelihood that others will see you as likable.

In the post, the authors offer a self-assessment to determine your own likability quotient. Check it out and see how you score. Armed with that information you can move into action to develop into an even more likable leader.

What can you do starting tomorrow to up your likability quotient?
Please leave a comment to let us know.

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

For help in developing your likability, contact Robyn at

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