Leadership Series: (12) Leader Should Be Likable. By Victor A. Imhangbe

Some people feel there are contradictions between leadership and likability according to Dorie Clark; in his article title: “How To Become A More Likable Leader”. Such people are quick to make reference to Steve Job: a renowned CEO who was not known to possess lively and warm personality. It is natural for someone who made hard decision to make some enemies. However, Dorie made reference to Dave Kerpen; contrary opinion in his book titled: “Likable Leadership”. Dave lays out a different vision, where likability isn’t about people; pleasing or dodging tough calls, but instead the commitment to treat others with respect. For instance, “Let’s take firing someone,” he says. “The conventional wisdom might say the ‘likable thing’ to do is not to fire them, because it’ll be hard on them.

But for me, the likable thing is to be transparent with them, let them know why it’s not the right fit, and help them find a better fit. You may think you’re being nice by keeping someone employed, but if you’re hurting your organisation and that person, that’s not really valuable. Being likable is not being a pushover; it’s embracing people and being honest, authentic, transparent, helpful, and kind.”

Put differently, the more likable you are, the better leader you’ll be, because people want to work in positive and respectful environments. Kerpen recommends the following what he calls the “platinum rule” which is treating others not as you’d like to be treated, but as they’d like to be treated.

How Can You Become More Likable?

The first step to become more likable according to Kerpen is self-awareness. You must have to understand yourself, to be able to identify your weakness, before looking for ways to improve or find out how can you get better? He opines that in his earlier years, he was careless to learn anything about himself and his team. He thought he got everything, but now realised how little he actually know and value the opportunity to become more self-aware.

The second step Kerpen too is; he’s become a fan of the Enneagram, a personality test that helps you understand your strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, he says, likability comes from within. In order to be likable and successful, he says, “We need to be the kind of person we would like.” That means embracing authenticity, transparency, responsiveness, and other principles you value. “If I’m completely honest with everyone I talk to, I never have to worry about whether I’d like myself, because we all appreciate honesty.”

Continuing by Dorie, “The key thing is having perspective on what is most important to you,” says Kerpen, who writes often about his devotion to his family. “I have every single one of my managers do an activity with their teams where they write their obituaries. You’re going to have to think about what you want to be remembered for in this world. I’d challenge everyone out there to think about what they really want that obituary to look like, and make sure you live your life in a way that will generate that.” Are you an aspiring leader? Could you tell me how you are working to become a more likeable leader?

Research studies consistently revealed that; people respond positively to others whom they like.  They trust them, they cooperate with them, they approve their proposals, and they buy from them.  Mitch Anthony, author of Selling with Emotional Intelligence, puts it succinctly, “Likability is as important as ability.”  Successful people balance expertise with likability.   It is a proven formula for success.

After extensive research, Tim Sanders, author of The Likability Factor, claims that there are four ingredients to likability:  friendliness, relevance, empathy, realness.  Relevance and empathy are ingredients of relationship sensitivity, described above.  Realness, or authenticity, brings us back to integrity, the first element of credibility described in this above.  Likability is much more than a feel-good characteristic.

Emotional intelligence guru, Daniel Goleman, and co-authors Boyatzis and McKee, remind us of the importance of optimism and a lighthearted perspective in the workplace, asserting that leaders who have the ability to express enthusiasm and upbeat emotions attract other people.  In their book, Primal Leadership, these researchers put it succinctly:

Research has proven it:  Optimistic, enthusiastic leaders more easily retain their people, compared to those bosses who tend toward negative moods.

Furthermore, the authors reminded us that a smile (friendliness) is contagious, drawing others to smile in response.  A smile, however, can be faked.  Laughter is too complex for faking, and, at a deep, non-verbal level, people know this.  Accordingly, we trust (assign credibility to) people who laugh with us.  Laughing with someone is the quickest way to build trust and rapport.

To boost your credibility on this element, take the following actions:

  • Communicate optimistically by describing challenges rather than problems
  • Focus on what can be done as opposed to what can’t be done
  • Go out of your way to be friendly, even if you aren’t an extrovert
  • Practice finding the humor around you, especially in stressful situations
  • Express gratitude privately, publicly and in writing
  • Demonstrate an interest on matters of personal importance to others
  • Congratulate others and celebrate their successes

Credibility is a Package Deal

No single element described here can guarantee high perceived credibility.  After all, an expert without integrity might be a dictator.  A likable person who lacks judgment will make stupid decisions.

People assign you a degree of credibility based on how they rate you on the interaction of the elements of credibility:  integrity, expertise, sound judgment, relationship sensitivity, and likability.  Perceived credibility is a package deal.  Remember, too, that your credibility is based on observed behavior, not on your intentions.

Understanding the elements of credibility provides you with opportunities to boost your perceived credibility and your success.  Study the habits and behaviors of those who are well-liked in your workplace.  Adopt or adapt those that you can authentically incorporate into your own behavior.  Review the elements and action steps in this article, and choose one action to work on at a time.  With time and consistency, you can boost your credibility at work and in your community.  You need to know the definition of credibility and you need to care!

From the above, we understand that people assign you a degree of credibility based on how they rate you on the interaction of the elements of credibility: integrity, expertise, sound judgment, relationship sensitivity, and likability. In our next series, we shall be discussing other key features that make a dynamics and successful leadership through developing attractive and bulletproof strategy. Your opinion and feedback is expected on the comment column. Do you like the piece? Kindly share.

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Victor Imhangbe

Hey, there! I am Victor Imhangbe and I am the brain behind this great lifestyle blog where you get to read everything from life to education to fashion and pretty much about everything else. I invite you to keep keeping tab on our latest news and updates!

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