How Important is Likeability in Leadership?
As a leader, how important is it to be likeable? Can aspiring leaders reach a higher level in their careers without being likeable? There is a lot of conflicting advice about the importance of being liked by your team or co-workers. Some people feel it is better to be tough or intimidating as a leader, while others think being liked is essential to success.
What the Research Says about Likeability at Work
First, let’s look at what research shows about likeability.
- People seen as likeable are promoted more often than those deemed unlikeable.
- In a study of over 50,000 leaders, only 27 of those leaders that rated low in likeability were rated high in effectiveness.
- 90% of what sets high performers apart is attributed to emotional intelligence, which correlates strongly with likeability.
- 57% of employees have quit a job because they did not like their manager, and 32% have seriously considered leaving.
Traits of Highly Likeable Leaders
If likeability is an important part of success, what traits make a leader likeable?
- Empathy — The ability to empathize with others is an important leadership skill. Seeing things from other people’s perspectives is important for building relationships, creating a positive work culture, and solving problems.
- Understanding Boundaries — Boundaries are very important in working relationships. Honoring people’s time, respecting their contributions no matter their pay grade or job title, and not bringing up sensitive or personal topics at work are all examples of having boundaries. This trait makes leaders more likeable because it boils down to treating others respectfully and courteously.
- Authenticity — Authentic leaders are self-aware, mission-driven and conduct themselves with integrity. They are often described as genuine and honest. Likeable leaders don’t come across as two-faced or disingenuous.
Can Likeable Managers Really Be Effective?
There are many misconceptions about what it takes to be an effective leader. Some people believe old sayings like, “It is better to be feared than loved.” Or that it is best to “rule with an iron fist.”
However, in today’s workplace, employees will likely look for new opportunities if they don’t feel cared for and respected. When considering the effects of employment trends like the Great Resignation and Quiet Quitting, it is clear that employees are looking for healthy and supportive workplaces.
Colin Powell once said, “The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”
Remember, being a likeable leader doesn’t mean being a pushover or that people will always like the decisions you make. Successful leaders hold people accountable, which can mean having difficult conversations that may upset people. While likeability is important in leadership, it shouldn’t be the sole focus of a leader. A leader who is too focused on whether or not people like them may waste time and effort trying to please everyone.
Leadership is About Connections
Another way to look at likeability as a leader is to consider the importance of personal connections in business. Connecting with people is an important role for any leader. Building networks, creating positive relationships with customers, and influencing others all start with the ability to connect with people.
In fact, connecting with employees and colleagues is more important than ever in an increasingly disconnected world. Hybrid workplaces, virtual meetings, and fewer in-person business interactions can lead to a decline in job performance, increased sick days and higher employee turnover.
Likeability and Leadership — A Balancing Act
In conclusion, likeability is definitely important in leadership, but it is not the only trait a leader needs to succeed. Effective leaders must find the balance between building relationships and driving for results, which is not always easy.
Leaders looking to improve their likeability can benefit from sharpening their soft skills, like communication, adaptability, and emotional intelligence. If you or your managers need to develop these essential leadership skills, Crestcom’s leadership training programs can help. Our leadership classes give leaders the tools, techniques and knowledge to become more effective in all aspects of their life.