How Likable Are You? What Your Likability Says about Your Leadership Success
Not much is written in leadership about a leader’s likability. Actually, I can’t recall hearing about it once in print or at conferences I’ve attended. I find that unusual when, in fact our likability as leaders is actually very important.
Being a likable person does not guarantee your leadership success. But if you are not likable, it almost certainly guarantees your demise.
Why is that?
What does it mean to be likable?
Being likable simply means that others like to be around you. You smile; you speak kindly to others. You say the right things in the right way. You don’t make people feel small or inadequate. You don’t make people want to hide under the table when you walk into the room. Rather, people actually feel good when you are around.
If you ask nearly anyone, “Are you a likable person?” the response would be overwhelmingly affirmative. Most unlikable people don’t even see themselves that way. And if they do, they may not know what to do about it.
Why is likability important to your leadership?
In essence leadership is asking people to go with you. Naturally, this means they will spend time with you. And who wants to spend time with someone they don’t even like?
Even when we don’t know a leader personally, we still want to like him or her. When I examine the American presidential races over the past forty years, I believe the majority of the winners were the more likable people, regardless of their politics. Here are a few examples: Obama vs. Romney; Obama vs. McCain; George W. Bush vs. Kerry; George W. Bush vs. Gore; Bill Clinton vs. Dole; Bill Clinton vs. George H. Bush. In each case, I believe the winner was the more likable person.
Do you like following a boss who is annoying? Of course not. Even though they may be honest, hard working, successful people, no one wants to work for someone they do not like.
Can you answer these questions for yourself?
As leaders, if we believe our likability is key to our success, then we must answer these questions for ourselves.
How do we know how likable we are?
How can we be more likable?
The answer to the first question is hard. Very hard. It seems most people who are unlikable have no idea. They may talk too much, tease too much, speak too loud, or even be condescending to others, and still remain clueless that people don’t like them.
I know very smart people who lack the ability to gauge how their behavior is perceived by others. They have a very high IQ (Intelligence Quotient), but a very low EQ (Emotional Quotient). They can’t discern how others feel and adjust their thinking and behavior accordingly.
So then, how can you tell how likable you are? You probably won’t get the best answer from your mom or best friend. There is really only one way to know. You must ask others around you, those you work with and work for. Somehow, you must find a way, even if by survey or questionnaire.
How do we become more likable?
Excellent advice can be found in How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. And here are a few other pointers:
- Be humble in your heart. No one likes a know-it-all. We all like people who, regardless how successful they become, keep for themselves an attitude that says: “I am still learning. I am still becoming. I am nothing but a grateful person for what I’ve been given.” We must not act humbly. We must be humble.
- Listen more than you speak. Let others talk. Give them a chance. And when they talk, listen to their hearts. Try to understand who they are, not just what they are saying.
- Be kind. Start with the right tone of voice and awareness of body language and facial features. Be warm. Be gentle.
Book I Just Read: Up Your Business, by Dave Anderson
For Further Reading: