Why you need to be a likeable leader

"Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others." ~ Jack Welch

Dr. Travis Bradberry wrote the following: “If you want to be a leader whom people follow with absolute conviction, you have to be a likeable leader.”

He further explains that, according to his experience, people will not describe nor remember a leader by how intelligent or visionary he was, but rather by characteristics like humility, approachability and positivity. He categorises these qualities as part of being emotionally intelligent and believes that emotional intelligence is: “a flexible skill that can improve with effort”.

The 10 key behaviours that he mentions in his article: “10 Habits of Ultra-Likeable Leaders”, are the following:

• Forming personal connections
• Approachability
• Humility
• Positivity
• Even-Keeled: They do not throw their toys when things go wrong. Conversely, neither do they blow their horn when things go well. They learn from both experiences
• Generosity
• Integrity
• They understand people well (“read people like a book”)
• They appreciate the potential in people
• Share their knowledge with humility and honesty

We can’t fault anything he has highlighted thus far. In fact, these qualities are the hallmark of an extremely effective leader. So then – why aren’t all leaders able to achieve this level of emotional intelligence? I repeatedly identify the following issues in ineffective leaders:

I take no nonsense and rule by fear
After all, a scared person is more likely to follow your commands to the letter. Well yes, he is, but only to the letter. Fear kills creativity, so you’ll only get out what you yourself put in. No additional thought on behalf of the employee, no problem solving, no input of any kind. They’re too scared and too resentful. People live down to our expectation of them. The stress of living in fear manifests in burnout and/or passive aggressive behaviour. It has to come out somewhere. The boss thinks he’s getting 100% compliance; in essence he’s releasing far less than a 100% of that employee’s potential. If he enabled his staff through belief in their potential they’d most likely achieve 120%! Respect earns respect. Fear produces fear, not productivity.

I believe I’m not there to be liked, just to get the job done.
Very short-sighted – we give our best to people we like – an inalienable facet of human nature.

I do not have time to make personal connections.
The second part of this statement motivates this type of thinking. Essentially, leaders need to encourage focus, but that doesn’t preclude making connections. Professional, business-like connections – not intimate, personal ones.

Personal connections make it difficult to say no.
This is true if the leader hasn’t set fair and clear parameters for a work-related relationship. If he/she ensures that that invisible line isn’t violated, they can be both personable and honest at the same time.

I do not have an open-door policy, because of time-bound targets and also to protect my privacy.
Once again we are dealing with an insecure leader who doesn’t set clear boundaries. If she/he needs to focus, their employees will respect this provided they receive a similar level of respect in return. Good time management will allow for the boss to set aside time to interact with employees - irrespective of deadlines. The purpose this serves is two-fold. This manager pre-empts interruptions by approaching the employee on a regular basis. The employee is made to feel important and is more likely to hold over queries until this pre-appointed time.

If I am too generous, people will take advantage of my kindness.
Yet again, this points to an inability to set clear boundaries.

I need to be bossy and aloof to stay in control.
Pure fallacy. Treat people like children and they will behave like children. However at work, it’s a lot harder to come up with relevant consequences and this manager will have to be increasing the severity of these continuously. What a colossal waste of time and energy!

There is no place for emotion in business.
There’s no business without emotion. Customers buy based on emotion, either good or bad. Remove emotion that clouds thinking, but don’t remove emotion that promotes connections.

My negative approach ensures my employees are always prepared for the worst.
A surefire way to kill productivity, both of the manager and employee. Be honest about the challenges and encourage a solutions-based way of thinking.

If I share all I know, I could be overtaken by those I have upskilled.
If a manager takes genuine pleasure in his staff’s achievements they will reciprocate in kind. This type of forward-thinking manager will always have a strategy for her/his personal growth – it’s part of their nature. They won’t get caught napping.

If I have to listen to everybody’s input all the time, no work will be done.
Absolutely. That’s why you should develop a clear and honest vision, schedule appropriate time to brain storm ideas and reach consensus where possible or make a transparent decision where necessary.

So you’ve had the opportunity to read Dr Bradberry’s article as well as my take on the most common behaviour exhibited by insecure managers. Does any of this apply to you? If so, you’re not alone – you’re just human and Leadership training is designed to help you address all of these issues as well as so much more.

Staff Training is an accredited soft skills training provider. View our courses here or contact us at (021) 839 3021.


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