What does it take to be a leader who is well-liked? Just as any of us can learn and develop certain leadership skills, we can also build into our lives certain qualities and characteristics that will make us more relatable, perhaps more inclusive, more empathetic, and maybe even more likeable. Now to be sure, if your only goal in your church/organization/company is to be well-liked, you probably won’t be a successful leader. Leaders have to make hard choices and difficult decisions, some of them are even agonizing. Leadership forces us into responsibility, and sometimes the choices are hard.
Let’s start with this question:
“Can I improve how I treat people and thus raise the level of my own likeability?”
It is my experience, when people see leaders in a favorable light and respect who they are, they will work hard to help make both the leader and the team more successful. In terms of likeability, there are two key overarching concepts that we need to consider. One is, we must always lead with others in mind. Rather than seeing leadership as a self-serving means to an end – primarily one’s own advancement and success – we lead with an awareness that there are many others in the organization who help us to achieve the successes we have. The second overarching concept is that of kindness as an intentional act. To be kind, by definition, is “to be friendly, generous, and considerate.” Kindness is not necessarily hot wired into our DNA. But it can be developed. It takes deliberate action, mindful interaction, and conscious decision-making.
Over the years, and through the use of a number of book and on-line resources, classes both taught and attended, I have cobbled together a list of choices and actions an individual can take, to make themselves more likeable. Here is my list of 12 ways to become more likeable as a leader.
Likeability as a Leader
1. Remember names and call people by their names. Whenever we forget someone’s name, we offer an unintended communication. We are saying to that person, “You don’t matter to me, at least not all that much.” And because we are too embarrassed to admit we have forgotten a name, we default to laziness and we say things like, “Hey you!” “Hey man!” Or, we even create a nickname that may or may not be welcomed by that person. Remembering names can be difficult for many. (In my work, I try to insist on nametags at every event). Additionally, always make a point of re-introducing yourself to others… don’t assume that you are important enough that they SHOULD remember your name. Give them the courtesy of reminding them of your name and perhaps they will return the favor.
2. Be inclusive. Be inclusive of all in the workplace. As leaders, we have to avoid an elitist attitude by creating space for inclusion. Here are some ways to make that happen.
– Acknowledge that everyone matters
– All opinions are important
– Everyone deserves to be heard
– Leave no one out – shared leadership and decision-making opens the door to greater likeability.
3. Say “thank you” often. It never hurts to say thanks. It costs nothing and can only help. Whenever we say “thank you,” we offer value to that person and we affirm the work that they are doing. I believe it is important to express thankfulness both verbally and in writing. When was the last time that you wrote a thank you note to someone? I get a few from time to time and I keep nearly every hand-written note that people send my way. We have to avoid the trap of thinking, “You work for me… why should I thank you for doing your job?” A little appreciation along the way builds great report and working relationships. It’s a part of the “kindness culture” that we need to create.
4. Be conscious of how much you are talking in any discussion. (A little self-awareness can go a long way). Ask: Are you dominating the conversation? Have you talked too much and listened too little? Careful! Leaders naturally fall into advice-giving roles and can soon dominate a discussion. If we dominate every conversation, we are not welcoming nor affirming the thoughts and ideas that others might bring to the table. Don’t let your many words push the words of others off the table.
5.Practice random acts of kindness. Think in terms of kindness as a lifegoal. How can I support and encourage my co-workers? How can I show them worth and value? Small gestures can make a huge difference. Go out of your way to express kindness. Pitch in on a job. Volunteer to help with a project. Buy lunch one day. Do something unexpected, but welcomed. To accomplish this suggestion, it means that you have to think about your co-workers by leaning into their world and doing something unselfish to act on their behalf.
6. Provide help and ask for help. Be willing to give yourself away. Asking for other’s help and advice builds comradery and conveys a sense of inclusion. Learn this question and ask it often: “What can I do to help?” You are saying in essence, “I care about what you do and I value your work. I want to be involved.” And… don’t be shy about asking for them to help you. Just say, “Hey, I need some help.” Whenever you ask for someone else’s help, you are affirming their gifts and their importance.
7. Be consistent. People value consistency. Co-workers should know what they will get from you – emotionally and professionally. To be clear, we cannot always control the events in our lives and our emotional response to those events. We are all going to have bad days. Those kinds of moments are understandable. What I am describing is consistency in schedule, work habits, attitude, etc. Hopefully there is a “calming predictability” about you and your work flow. People like it when they know they can count on their leaders to be consistent.
8. Make yourself approachable. Approachability signals to co-workers that they matter and that they are important. So, make time for people to have access to you. Avoid the elitist trap of keeping folks at arm’s length. You don’t want to convey the idea that “I don’t have time for you.” There are some ways to make yourself approachable with certain parameters.
– Open door policy – “If my door is open, I am interruptible.”
– Schedule 1-on-1 time – Take the initiative to meet with team/staff members individually. Make sure they know they can have your full attention.
– Group time – Continue to build a team mentality by being a part of the team… eat lunch together, do project work together, etc.
– Cell phone number/Business Card – Whenever you offer either, these are clear signals for being approachable.
– Answer email in a timely fashion – Set boundaries and expectations. (Maybe a 24-hour response.)
9. Be a listener. (This quality is listed on every resource and list concerning effective leadership that I have discovered). Be a good listener. That doesn’t always come easy. We have to develop and practice learning skills – Put away your phone – clear the desk, close the door, maybe take notes. People will feel valued if they know you are listening to them and are giving them your full attention.
10. Keep confidences. Become a person who is trusted. If someone confides in you, be trustworthy with that information. You will lose credibility if you have established a pattern of not being a worthy confidant. Loose lips still sink ships and can damage your leadership status. We like the people we trust. We don’t like those whom we can’t.
11. Pay attention to manners, attire, language.
– Stand to greet people
– Speak directly to them – Look them in the eye
– Know what is the dress code for your office and workplace and abide by it. The key is to avoid being sloppy or drawing attention to yourself with your clothing.
– Guard your language – Avoid crude language, and remember that offensive jokes are never appropriate. I would add to the list that political opinions are seldom welcomed. Keep those to yourself. Never assume that everyone in the room agrees with your viewpoint.
12. Pay attention to boundaries and professional distance. There can be great value conveyed through simple human touch. Many of us affirm one another with a handshake, maybe a touch on the arm, or a pat on back. Know the person. Some are affirmed through touch but not everyone wants a hug or a handshake. They may not even want you in their personal space! Don’t be the person who forces an awkward moment. Consider your use of human touch. It can offer a non-verbal word of acceptance and friendship. But hear me clearly, always know what is appropriate for your setting and never step beyond those boundaries.