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How to Become a Better Leader by Being Likeable

How to Become a Better Leader by Being Likeable

Likability probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a good leader, and it’s actually commonly believed that effective leaders should be respected or admired, but not liked. Likable people tend to be negatively seen as pushovers who can’t make the hard decisions business leaders have to make because they are too nice to correct an employee or make a rule that nobody enjoys. The truth, however, is that being a good leader and being liked aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, in order for a leader to get his or her employees to follow their leadership, they must be liked by their employees. Just think of the last time you were excited to do something for a manager you hated.

In order to truly embrace the importance of likability it’s important to understand that likability isn’t the same thing as being nice. Nice people may not tell the full truth or address the tough issues, but likable people are honest with others and build up trusting relationships with that honesty. Employees may not always like the changes made, but they will appreciate a leader who is fully honest with them and that they know they can trust.

So what are some ways to become a more likable leader?

1. Be Completely Honest

Many managers feel that they have to keep their underlying goals to themselves, but employees need the truth from their managers about the goals they are trying to accomplish as well as challenges they are trying to overcome. The first step to connecting to employees and gaining their trust is to start being completely—and even sometimes brutally—honest.

2. Become a Storyteller

People don’t relate to numbers and graphs, they relate to people, so learn how to tell a good story when trying to inspire your team. Stories can not only motivate employees to get through a tough assignment, but can also inspire them to come up with a new solution or idea for the company. Stories can keep employees actively engaged in the business rather than passively performing their job.

3. Be Selfless

Great leaders serve their employees, not the other way around. Whether its providing better resources for your employees instead of giving yourself a bonus, or just offering some one-on-one time during the lunch hour, workers can easily distinguish between the leaders who care about them and those that are only concerned about themselves.

4. Have Empathy

A likable leader must also be empathetic to his employees. This ranges from understanding why employees are laughing and joking the day before Christmas Eve instead of working hard, to recognizing when teams are stressed due to a tight deadline. Failing to celebrate with a team or not showing concern for a time crunched employee will quickly lose you the respect you have worked to gain.

5. Trust Your Team

Trust is a two way street, which means likable leaders not only gain trust, but give trust in return. Avoid being that leader who is constantly micromanaging or making tasks more difficult than they should be. There are number of about this such as this one by Oscar Wilde, "Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go." Grace your employees with your presence when you have something to offer them, and let them do their jobs the rest of the time.

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Robert Cordray

Robert Cordray is a former business consultant and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience and a wide variety of knowledge in multiple areas of the industry such as corporate leadership, employee engagement, workplace culture and entrepreneurship. Robert earned a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) from the University of Chicago.

One Comment


  1. I agree with your conclusion that being liked along with being competent is a winning combination. However, true leadership is more than just being liked. People will follow a leader who is honest, competent and one who allows subordinates to be the best that they can be which includes allowing to make mistakes, try new things, use the talent and ability they have to make a difference in an organization and be respected for their contributions. Rewards comes in various forms and money is not the only thing people work for. Employees leave jobs and take new ones for two simple reasons. First, they want a job that is challenging and offers them a chance to learn and grow. Fair compensation and benefits are also important, but the ability to make a meaningful contribution is the key.

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