One of the fatal flaws for leaders is an oversized desire to be liked by others. All humans have a deep desire to be liked. That need is baked deep into our DNA. When this desire becomes too strong, however, it can prevent leaders from delivering tough messages, being honest in the face of confrontation, and making hard decisions that affect other people.
Being liked is not the problem. It’s the inner need to be liked that can interfere with a leader’s ability to manage others and hold them accountable for results. The need to be liked not only inhibits the feedback leaders give, but can also skew decision-making. Making unpopular decisions regarding our “friends” requires more courage than most people-pleasers can muster.
It’s not that good leaders don’t have the same need to be approved by and liked by others. But the best leaders hold the goals of creating great results and effective leadership higher than being liked. This allows them to withstand the insecurity of feeling vulnerable over how others react to their choices or act disapprovingly toward them.
The key is to remember this: The most successful leaders strive to be likeable, not liked. This doesn’t mean they behave like jerks just because they don’t care how they are viewed. Rather, they act from strong values and principles, one of which is to do the right thing all of the time. Speaking candidly and making sound choices is always the right and best thing to do.
Fending off the urge to be liked is required for those who wish to be effective leaders. Having a likeable style benefits this influence. But when the need to be accepted by others carries too much weight, leadership suffers. As one leader warns, “Don’t set yourself on fire to keep others warm.” Be a likeable leader who doesn’t need to be liked.