3 Hard But Powerful Truths about Likeability and Leadership
So you probably want people to like you. Who doesn’t?
Often when people say they don’t care whether people like them, it’s because they used to care whether people like them, but they got burned and as a result have become a bit jaded, closed and maybe even cynical.
If we’re gut-honest with each other, most of us would rather be liked rather than not liked.
The rise of social media makes this tension even more present daily. Did anyone ever post a picture or update and not want it to be liked or shared? Social media is turning already insecure leaders into like-aholics.
Which poses a challenge for all of us who lead.
Do we lead? Or should we be likeable?
Can you lead and be likeable?
And what happens if you choose one over the other?
This is a tension that ruins a lot of leadership potential. But it can be managed. Here’s how.
The tension between likeability and leadership is much older than social media. Every leader in every generation has had to struggle with it at some level.
While you may never resolve the tension, understanding it and keeping it in front of you will help you navigate it better.
Here are 3 hard but powerful truths about the tension.
1. If you focus on being liked, you won’t lead
Leadership requires you to take people to destinations they would not go without your leadership.
Stop for a moment and, if you would, re-read that sentence.
Do you see the challenge?
Leadership is inherently difficult because it requires a leader to take people where they don’t naturally want to go.
So you have a choice as a leader.
You can focus on leading people, or focus on being liked.
When you focus on being liked, you will instinctively try to please the people you’re leading. And when you do, you will become confused.
Pleasing people is inherently confusing because people don’t agree. One person wants it one way. Another wants it another way.
And soon, you’re bending over backwards to make everyone happy, which of course means that in the end, you will end up making no one happy, including yourself. It’s actually a recipe for misery for everyone.
It’s also a recipe for inertia.
If you focus on being liked, you won’t lead. You will never have the courage to do what needs to be done.
Usually, if the change is a good one and you have led well, people will ultimately see it was a good move. And they will eventually be thankful for it and often for you.
Sometimes—even if the change is good—there will be a few who never thank you and still don’t like you. That’s okay, because you took the high road. You can look in the mirror with some satisfaction knowing you did all that you could and did it with all integrity. You fought the good fight.