I’ll grant you this: leaders might not need to be liked in order to be effective. But your ability to lead your team into the fray and to inspire loyalty and enthusiasm is certainly impacted by your likeability factor.
As with any personality trait, there’s some malleability to this one. Want to be better liked? Take a personal inventory to see how you measure up. Well-liked people have these traits in common:
They can read people
Likeable leaders understand non-verbal communication. They’re always on the lookout for indicators of how others feel, and they use this data to predict the moods and reactions of others. This helps them make good decisions that get better buy-in.
They connect with the people they lead
A likable leader knows that the people who report to them are thinking, breathing, real-live human beings with emotions and needs. Likeable leaders seek to form bonds with people (which takes time), rather than alienating them (which can be done in an instant). When employees feel connected to their leader, they feel “safe” enough to make suggestions, solve problems creatively and innovate.
They have integrity
Trust and admiration have to be earned through actions – not words. Likeable leaders accomplish this, over time, by being honest and showing consistency in what they do.
They can handle ups and downs
A likable leader knows that life serves up both success and failure and isn’t rattled by either one. When there’s something to celebrate, the likeable leader does so with warmth and sincerity. When there’s a mess to clean up, he or she does it without drama or complaint. Modeling an even-keeled style makes the leader ever-approachable.
They are positive
A likeable leader maintains a positive outlook for the team. This isn’t about being fake or pretending, it’s about conveying optimism while solving problems. Their passion for the company and its goals are best demonstrated in the trenches – not in empty speeches at annual meetings.
They have substance
Being charming isn’t enough. A likeable leader demonstrates substance by possessing essential knowledge and information and freely admitting when he or she doesn’t know the answer.
They are generous
Bad leaders hold back information and resources from their employees because they worry their employees may take advantage of the kindness – or outshine them. A likable leader makes sure his team has everything they need to be successful.
Maurice Gilbert is Managing Partner of Conselium Executive Search, which specializes in placing Compliance Officers and Legal Counsel for clients in the U.S., Europe, Latin America and Asia Pacific. Maurice is also CEO of Corporate Compliance Insights, a worldwide publication devoted to governance, risk and compliance issues. Maurice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.