Do you want to be liked?
Most of us do. But wanting to be liked by everyone can have a chilling effect on your happiness and success.
As an example, I don't believe leaders need to behave like arrogant jerks to be successful. But many are so afraid of being disliked that they err on the opposite end, unwilling to make unpopular decisions or have difficult conversations.
When the need to be liked trumps your best efforts as a leader, you're not doing anyone any favors.
Here are two common fears that hold leaders back:
1. Fear of addressing poor performers
I see bad behavior and rotten performance everywhere in organizations. I truly believe others’ poor performance sits squarely on their manager’s shoulders. If the manager won’t address the problems, who will?
I recently worked with a group of leaders and early on in our first meeting one confessed she has avoided a conversation with a problem employee for months. She lets her get away with whining, complaining, interfering with others’ work, and low sales numbers. She said, "I am afraid of what might happen during the conversation. This employee is also a friend of mine outside of work, so I don’t want her to dislike me.”
The results? The rest of the team was demoralized, their work starting to slide, and they grew increasingly annoyed at their boss for not calling out this difficult employee.
To her credit, the manager rehearsed what she could say and had the conversation. Not only did the poor performer become aware of her negative impact, but she actually appreciated the conversation and started to change her behavior.
What if the opposite happened, and the employee reacted badly to the conversation? Oh, well. It is not your job to stifle your good leadership instincts because you fear an employee won’t like you.
Reality check: When you let a slacker slide or allow negativity to reign, whether it is in a corporation, a volunteer organization or even a family, the people who are earnestly doing their best to meet the standards resent you for it.
2. Fear of people talking about you
I confess: I want to be liked too. But I've come to recognize that I can't make everyone happy.
The turning point came when I took on the responsibilities of Co-Chair for my Beekeepers Co-op.
I made a few changes that bothered some members. My worst fears surfaced when I discovered they were discussing my awfulness at a social gathering. The anxiety about being unpopular feIt like high school all over again.
"They don't like me," I lamented to a much wiser friend. She said, "If all the people who dislike someone are whiners, that tells me the person they are gossiping about is probably a go-getter who doesn't coddle others."
Then the situation became clear: Why should I care if they liked me since I wasn’t very keen on them either? Being liked is nice. Being happy and successful is better.