What’s Right About Being Liked


Leaders are emotionally strong. They don’t express any feelings that might imply that they have weaknesses. This includes any hint of a desire to want to be liked by others. Never, ever, let your guard down in case someone might take advantage of you.


There are misconceptions about leadership and likeability. When I hear a leader tell me that they are a different person at home than they are at work (a common statement), I wonder if they are hiding a side of them that may be more engaging and wonderful – and thus more effective at work.

Think back to the leaders in your life who you’ve worked the hardest for; those leaders whom you respected and (dare I say it?) liked. These leaders engaged your mind and your heart. They could be liked while still being tough and getting results. In fact, their likability made their hardest tasks easier because you (and others) wanted to do your best for that person.

I offer you a “both-and” proposition. You can be an effective leader and you can be liked. A leader who wants to be liked tries harder to:

Be respectful of others. This means you act with civility and you treat others with the dignity and honor that they deserve. You try harder to be aware of your impact – both good and harmful – on others. You observe your actions in the moment, and you reflect on them later, correcting mistakes you’ve made that may be hurtful. You monitor your behavior for immoral or unethical conduct.

Exhibit compassion when it’s called for. Our workplaces swirl with emotions daily, yet we deny or hide them, often to the detriment of achieving results. Watch for those who need your compassion and find ways to help them or just listen. When others are suffering, ask what you can do. You don’t have to “help” all the time; sometimes simply listening is enough.

Treat people as individuals whenever you can. Our organizations are system marvels, yet people cannot be systemized. They long to be seen and cared for as individuals who are complex, talented human beings. Look for and celebrate the unique attributes of those around you and let them know the specific character traits you appreciate about them. Give them a chance to use and express their strengths at work or help them to find new work that will allow them to be at their best.

The word “authentic leadership” has been maligned and overused, but this is what best describes the great leaders who are able to bring their whole selves to work. Striving to be liked can be a great way to enhance the way you lead.

I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.

4 comments on “What’s Right About Being Liked

  1. I really appreciate your blog post Mary Jo; I think also that many women fear in particular that being liked may be perceived as weakness. It certainly is not usually viewed as a strength to be developed and used as you explained to garner respect, loyalty and hard work from others.

  2. Hi Chris, I hadn’t thought that wanting to be liked may be seen as a weakness in women in particular. It’s got me thinking about whether this might account for the overly-direct behavior I sometimes observe – in women and men.

  3. HI Mary Jo,
    I often talk with managers about creating environments where their people can bring their whole self to work, and not have to leave part of who they are parked at the door. Thanks for the reminder that this is important for managers as well.

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