Should Leaders Be Likable?
It's not the job of a leader to be likable. Leaders can't successfully make tough decisions about schedules, priorities, staffing, budgets, and more if they're overly concerned about being liked. Steve Jobs was a creative genius and an inspirational visionary, but likability is not a word that comes to mind when we think about him. What about warm and fuzzy? No, I guess not.
Still, for most leaders, there's little to be gained—and possibly much to lose—by being unlikable. But what makes someone likable isn't obvious. When one particular psychologist asks his clients about the qualities they view as most important in terms of their own likability, they list things such as physical attractiveness, wealth, and social status. By contrast, when he asks these same individuals about the qualities they most desire in other people, they list honesty, trustworthiness, loyalty, and kindness.
Think about these qualities. If you're a leader who earns a reputation as honest, trustworthy, loyal, and kind, the respect you gain enables you to make unpopular decisions and still be liked. Employees may not like some of your decisions, but they won’t dislike you for making them. In return, you're more likely to have employees who themselves are honest, trustworthy, loyal, and kind.
By contrast, people might view you as unlikable if you’re arrogant, rude, aggressive, condescending, vindictive, mean-spirited, or relentlessly negative. Sometimes, leaders who exhibit these qualities simply don't realize that they're behaving in an unlikable manner. Some, sadly, simply don't care. They somehow achieved a leadership position with the mistaken belief that the key to success is to be dominating and domineering. But it's entirely possible to be a strong, capable, and likable leader without being a pushover.
The term emotional quotient (EQ, as compared with IQ) often comes into play in this context. Being a tyrant or a curmudgeon may work in the short term, but leaders who exhibit emotional intelligence, such as by being positive, approachable, humble, and even-keeled, will be much more likely to succeed in the long-term. They may never think in terms of likability, but they will be liked.