Would You Rather Be Liked Or Respected?

Penny ZenkerAccountability, Communication & Conflict, LEADERSHIPLeave a Comment

business people discussing in a meeting with their office leader

Liked Or Respected? An Important Leadership Question.

Have you ever noticed that the best leaders in history weren’t always liked; Steve Jobs, Jack Welsh, or Bill Gates for example. They were respected for challenging others and focusing on growth but always the nicest to be around. They had a strong vision and they did whatever it took to reach that vision. They had high expectations of others to follow that mantra. They weren’t always liked but they were respected. What is your leadership style? Do you want to be liked or respected? Be honest. Just because you are in a leadership role does not mean you have earned your team’s respect. A title or position is only a label, especially with the millennial generation. Being their friend doesn’t earn you respect either. They expect a vision they can connect with and be a part of, a strategy to provide clear direction, communication to educate why the steps are being made, and to be challenged to grow personally and professionally. The truth is we all want that. You have to demonstrate your leadership abilities to earn respect as a leader.

There is a major difference in the behavior of a leader that wants to be respected versus a leader that wants to be liked.

man standing in front of group of men

What are the effects of wanting to be liked? You won’t call out bad behavior from your team when it relates to values or performance. You avoid difficult conversations or minimize the conversation. When things get out of hand and drastic action needs to be taken- you are considered a two-faced traitor. How do your best performers feel when you are not taking action against those NOT pulling their weight? They decide they don’t need to give as much effort and team performance suffers further. The respect these employees have for you diminishes. It is a ripple effect. I have seen it first hand when brought in to coach with CEO’s. Often lack of engagement is a result of a leadership challenge.

On another note, I was working on a book project with some other authors, 20 to be exact. It was not an easy project to manage with so many authors. Deadlines had to be met to move forward with the vision. A few authors did not meet the deadlines so the creative director kicked those authors out of the project for not meeting the deadlines. Not easy to do. Interestingly enough, I recognized that because of that act of leadership, I had more respect for him for making this difficult move than anything he has done to this point. His leadership was tested. He was setting the standard. He was showing respect for those who completed their submissions on time and honoring the dates set forth for the project. He knew that this could affect future submissions from all the authors if he let these authors slide. Many leaders don’t want to make hard decisions in fear of not replacing those key players, interestingly enough; he was actually able to get even stronger replacements for the project who could deliver quickly. He opened up space for that to happen. Be careful, fear will work against you as a leader. You need to do what is right for the team and the rest will work itself out.

A mentor of mine once told me, that my job was to make decisions and what I did with the rest of my time was up to me. That was a reminder to me to keep my leadership role in perspective and not allow myself to get caught up in the details and excuses that would keep me from making the necessary decisions.

I want you to consider this when you want them to like you, where is your focus? The focus is on you. As you will learn in executive training programs, a great leader is focused on the employee. What is best for the employee and the mission is to be honest, open, and direct with them and their performance. Great leadership is about making them better. Leadership is about them not you.

Here are 5 ways to improve your leadership and gain respect in doing so.

  1. Set the standard, others will model youHow you show up as a leader matters because your energy will be contagious. It will affect or infect those around you. People will model and mirror you, no matter how you show up, whether you want them to or not. it is human nature. Related to this modeling, I actually received one of the greatest compliments of my career during a very difficult International restructuring. Our division was to be sold, and I was leading the effort and the division being sold. The sale was to be with a competitor and the staff did not know yet. We couldn’t be sure if the sale would go through so we had to proceed as normal operationally. For the management team, this wasn’t easy as we could not be sure our jobs were secure let alone our staff. That didn’t matter, we still needed to lead the organization regardless of the outcome. It wasn’t about us, it was about the team and our role in making this merger and transition successful. The Merger went ahead and the integration went very well. After the merger, many of the management team were let go. I met up with one of them after the re-organization, and I asked how he managed to get through the situation emotionally. He told me that he asked himself “What would Penny do in this situation?” I was blown away at this level of respect. That was the highest honor I could ask for and an amazing compliment and testimonial of my leadership. I am telling you this to press upon you how you show up in even the most difficult of times affects the behavior of the rest of the team.
  2. Ask more questions, empower your team: Some leaders end up being problem solvers. It makes them feel good, needed, and appreciated. Your team likes you better in the short run because they can off-load their problems on you, but they would respect you more if you put the questions back to them to help them solve their own problem. Build their skills to break the problem down and solve it themselves. Solving the problems themselves gives them greater confidence, independence, and ownership. Some people might classify the problem solver as a micromanager because they are so hands-on. Manage the person, not the situation. Become a coach and ask the right questions rather than give the right answers.
  3. Support collaboration over the competition: Support and encourage your team to work together to build each other’s skills and abilities as a whole. Look at an orchestra, each one can be a great soloist, but together they create magic. Allow individual strengths to be appreciated and utilized as a team like an orchestra. Competition across the organization creates silos of information, experience, and support. Your team will honor and respect a culture of collaboration that further re-enforces trust. Competition appears to be a driver but ends up more of a wedge than a driver. Focus on the music not the instruments.
  4. Frequent Feedback for growth: Create a culture of open honest feedback. The concept of annual evaluations is way outdated. Millennials as a culture thrive on frequent feedback. Integrate feedback opportunities into your meetings and into your projects. Make sure to follow up on feedback and see how it will be applied and tracked. The purpose of feedback is growth and without application and tracking, you don’t see the progress as clearly or the opportunity to adapt where necessary.
  5. Speed of TrustThe book by Stephen M.R. Covey “Speed of Trust” states very clearly that the most important commodity in your organization is trust. As a leader that is your responsibility. Your behavior either builds and maintains trust or breaks it down. If you are looking for engagement, ownership, and loyalty in your organization you won’t get it by wanting to be liked. You must make the hard decisions, face the challenges, create open honest communication, take calculated risks, and as a result you will gain the respect and trust of your team.

Where have you recognized the desire to be liked and its effect on your leadership? What will you now do differently to gain the respect of your team? Earning respect takes time and the best time to start or build upon where you are is right now. How can you create a WOW for your team to improve the environment, enhance their opportunities, and provide more autonomy?

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