“I’d rather be respected than well liked”
Who said it first? Can we even be sure at this point? Throughout history, leaders have grappled with striking a balance between being authoritative and well liked. Parents, CEOs, Mid-level Managers – regardless of title, any person in a position of power has to overcome the obstacle of maintaining a cordial relationship with juniors while also exuding confidence and leadership. So what qualities make a leader likable? While it may be true that not everyone will like you, how can you minimize scathing water cooler gossip about your ever receding hairline?
1. Ask others what they think.
Yes, you are the boss, but that doesn’t mean no one else on your team has anything valuable to say. Take a moment during a presentation to make sure everyone is following along. At the appropriate times, ask for feedback and opinions. More likely than not, you’ll hear multiple points of view or approaches you may not have considered before. For example, someone may have a different user experience with a product or time saving method for collecting data. Be open to new ideas and consider what your juniors have to say.
2. Actually listen to their answers.
Once you’ve asked the important questions, the next step is to listen. Be engaged with what employees have to say, taking notes on feedback or responding appropriately. Think of your best salesperson. They often say very little outside of describing a product and mainly listen, adding pertinent tidbits here and there. Always take time to see things from a junior’s perspective. If someone is having a difficult time with a task, needs assistance, or simply needs a second opinion, listen carefully before adding your two cents; the resolution you may feel is best may not actually be answering the question.
3. Acknowledge others for their hard work.
Sometimes managers are side tracked by constantly pointing out what an employee needs to do to improve, forgetting to compliment them on what they’ve done along the way. A simple “thanks for getting this done” may even suffice. You do not always have to provide bonuses, promotions, or raises to express gratitude. When the time is right for those items, surely present them. However, many employees want affirmation that their daily work is meaningful and contributes to the greater goal of the company.
At the end of the day, being likable may not be very high on your list of priorities. Just keep in mind that higher likability will certainly make your job easier.