YOU CAN BE LIKED AND RESPECTED AS A LEADER
Recently, I was engaged in conversation with some friends. We spent time recounting how uncaring and difficult some of our leaders were to us as growing teenagers. These leaders covered a range of positions including teachers, societal elders, class prefects, school prefects, our parents and such. We realized a weird trend; that most of them did not see the need to be nice or liked by us. It was as though they were intentionally mean to instill some fear and discipline in us. As kids, we would make fun of them and mimic their mannerisms and characters. We even familiarized ourselves with some of the disruptive comments some of them passed to us. By any means possible, we were not to like our leaders because it seemed culturally inappropriate.
As a young adult in my twenties taking up leadership roles, I unconsciously led people in this same manner. It was what I had come to learn about leadership – that being liked was not necessary as long as I could get the job done. Little did I know that this element I found to be insignificant was a solution to several challenges I had already faced in some previous leadership positions. In fact, I could have done the job better back then if I had knowledge of this fact. I had always wondered whether being liked was a requirement for being a great leader. Was likability important? Did it impact the governing terms of all the great leaders I had read about? Who were great leaders anyway and how did they get their job done? So far, all I had come to understand was that likability was rather a show of weakness and not an evidence of effective and wholesome leadership.
Leadership, what it means, and the way it is dealt out, has over the years seen many changes. The styles of leadership have changed, the mission of leadership has upgraded and the overall effect it is supposed to have on a group of individuals can be seen in a wide variety of performances. One goal is common and one thing is certain. Studies being carried out to understand how to make leadership better simply want to improve the outcomes of its impact. The numerous books on leadership I have read that expatiate on unending creations of leadership styles are seeking one thing – to better manage a group of people with a common ideology.
A comment from the Harvard Business Review on the matter reads as follows: “The old adage that leadership is not about being liked, but rather only about performance, is not quite correct in the modern organization where employees’ perspectives and voices are being heard to an increasingly greater extent. Leaders need to lead, yes, but they also need to balance out a single-minded focus on outcomes by developing a rapport with and demonstrating a high regard for their people.”
In Ghana and in many other countries around the globe, the similar notion is that one cannot be respected and be liked all at the same time. In a society where being respected is regarded, the concept of likability as a leader is foreign simply because a leader who is more likable is seen to have too much familiarity with followers. Being friendly with someone establishes you as a peer; and under ordinary social circumstances, being seen as a peer can lead to more trust and tighter relationships which is not the ideal concept of leadership in some societies. In many cases, the argument has been that being friendly and familiar causes struggles for the leader when he or she needs to get the job done. Because of the familiarity, the professional environment is compromised and hence, likability as a leadership trait is unattractive.
John Maxwell considers that the balancing act in leadership is to be respected and liked. If you are respected and not liked, then your influence will be limited and short-lived. A well-liked leader is seen to be more approachable and is easily trusted by followers. Followership becomes a more intimate affair. Whatever you do matters to your followers who will be your eyes and ears and look out for you because they want you to succeed. Simply being liked without respect may get you followers but they will be filled with insecurity and lack of confidence. They will question you constantly and will soon grow restless under your leadership. In the long run, they will become apathetic and lose enthusiasm. Leaders who are not liked may have difficulty staying in power, even when they are successful. Steve Jobs was forced out of Apple for several years, because his colleagues did not like his style. One option for leaders is to find situations in which the outcome is not that crucial to allow team members to get what they want and to overrule the desires of the group primarily in situations in which the outcome is crucial for an organization’s survival – Psychology Today.
It is clear that among the many other characteristics that make great leaders, likability is an important one of them for all the right reasons. A leader does not necessarily need to be your friend to get the work done. However, it is pertinent that the leader is able to influence followers, and that requires that he is liked, respected, knowledgeable and credible. Even though likeability is a factor of leadership, it is not a mandate for friendship. It is important that as we evolve in emotional intelligence and people intelligence among all the other quotients that create soft skills and emphasize its power in the workplace, this understanding becomes clearer. Effective leadership includes being liked and here are some key points to consider if one wants be intentional about be a likable leader:
- Be present
Often, leaders sail through the days without being fully present where they are needed. The fact that you show up in person is not the same as being present in mind and soul. When you are aware of what is going on inside of you and around you, you will be able to notice challenges that need to be addressed before they get out of hand, or pick up the dissatisfaction of your clients and perhaps the emotional exhaustion of your employees. Do not simply show up at the office or make that business presentation without taking some time to be conscious of your environment. Remember that leadership is not simply a position but also a personality that needs time, nourishment and self-awareness to operate at its fullest. Showing that you care and feel empathetic towards your followers communicated to them that you are human, thereby increasing your chances of being liked.
- The skill of relationship-building and people management
Your communication as a leader is with humans and if you are looking to build a lasting business, you need to first build lasting relationships. The heart of a thriving relationship is effective conversation, respect and clarity. These three things are at the core of proper functioning partnerships and functioning teams. Even with the best products and business practices, you still need strong relationships to succeed. As leaders, one of our basic responsibilities is to manage people. We need to understand that humans are first emotional beings before logical beings. The soft skill of emotional intelligence plays an important role in the management of people. It requires that you understand and are able to manage your own emotions first. By doing this, you develop your sense of communication, adaptability, empathy and analytical mind to address people and problems from a holistic perspective rather than a logical one or a purely emotional one.
- Endearing Conversations
In the day-to-day leadership environment, communication and conversation is very crucial. People respond to people they like but react to people they dislike. By paying attention to interpersonal interactions and communicating clear intentions, objectives and information, leaders can have meaningful conversations with employees and clients to meet them at their pain point. Endearing conversation is a cornerstone for building strong relationships and creating powerful connections. Remember that communication goes beyond what we say. A larger percentage of our communication is in our body language. How you show up physically contributes to how your verbal communication will be taken.
Meaningful conversations are not one-sided. They are engaging; a game of give and take. Can you tell the level of your engagement? How well do you connect with people? How much power do you have to reach people and to have people reach you? How many people can say that they are well-connected to you and at any time, when they come to you, they are assured of your guidance, support, feedback and empathy? The way you engage with people will influence the score of likability you have with them. That in turn determines what impact you can make with them in terms of influence.
As a leader there are many filters through which people see us. Likability is only one of them but it is a key point. We must take the time to understand ourselves and the people who have chosen to follow us. Balance is key. You will find a lot of traits that will need your attention if you are a leader. You are not born with all of them. It is up to you to decide the kind of leader you will like to be and nurture these traits. Are you ready?
Are you ready for TRANSFORMATION?
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: The H.E.L.P. Coach
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Personal Impact, Professional Growth and Influence Expert specializing in Humanness, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Power – H.E.L.P.
A career spanning over two decades, she has established herself as a Certified High Performance Coach, Speaker, Author, Wellness Expert and award-winning Entrepreneur with a clientele ranging from C-Suite Executives, Senior Management, Practitioners and Sales Leaders spanning 3 continents.
She is the Founder of Dzigbordi K. Dosoo (DKD) Holdings; a premier lifestyle business group with brand subsidiaries that include Dzigbordi Consulting Group& Allure Africa.
She is one of the most decorated female entrepreneurs in Ghana having being named “CIMG Marketing Woman of the Year” in 2009; “Top 10 most respected CEOs in Ghana, 2012; Global Heart of Leadership Award and, Women Rising “100 Most Influential Ghanaian Women”, 2017. She has also been featured on CNN.
She can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org and @dzigbordikwaku across all social media platforms.