As humans, we have an instinctual need to belong and be accepted among our peers. As communal beings, there is a survival need to belong to a group, something bigger than ourselves. And this desire is stronger than ever in these uncertain times. However, being liked and respected as a leader right now may be one of the toughest challenges leaders have faced in recent years. With the critical need to balance employee and customer health against the vitality of the business, many leaders today find themselves stuck finding the right balance.

When thinking of your own journey of becoming a leader, I’m sure you can recount a time or two where someone didn’t like you or didn’t respect you, making your primal need for acceptance a bit of a challenge. To be liked and to be respected do not necessarily come hand in hand. In fact, you can often have one without the other. To be the most effective leader you can be, having a degree of both from your peers can certainly give you an edge…and a following. One in which others rally behind your message – which ultimately, is what a leader strives to achieve.

To be liked and respected by peers and subordinates is a real balancing act – and at the end of day, you will never please everyone and (gasp)…some people will just not like you. And that’s OK! If you spend your time trying to get everyone to like you, chances are you will lose respect along the way. And ultimately, garnering respect  and trust as a professional is key to your continued professional advancement.

Our behaviors and actions inside and outside the workplace have a real impact on how those around us view our capability to lead – especially if you have recently been promoted to oversee others who were once your peer group. When ushering your high potentials through leadership development opportunities, it is critical to address their need to be liked AND respected – and how to strive for both. Here are a few ideas to incorporate in your next leadership development activity:

Garner Respect Without Turning Off The Masses

Often times, people equate getting respect through acting tough, often with intimidation tactics or just being too direct (or rude). More often than not, this will have the opposite reaction. Your team may do what is asked of them, but they will lose respect for you along the way – ultimately eroding the ability to lead effectively. Instead, encourage your leaders of tomorrow to try a balanced and blended approach where they:

  • Set clear expectations up front – no surprises!
  • Give praise and recognition when it is earned – both publicly and privately.
  • Hold their team accountable – give a sense of ownership or giving to the greater good.
  • Promote autonomy (show, don’t tell!) – after all, your company hired these super smart people, give them a chance to shine!

Lead With Authenticity

The pandemic has changed just about every aspect of how we go about our daily lives – from the smallest of tasks to our most important choices. With mounting uncertainty, one thing people are craving is truth and a sense of control. More than ever, leaders must be authentic. They must communicate what is going on in real time. Even if it is not the best news, people deserve to know what is going on. When your team feels your authenticity, they know you too are human. The camaraderie that results will build trust and keep your culture strong through this ever-changing situation.

Balance Is Your Goal

As with many things in life, the best formula is a little of both – likeability and respect. Too much of either can derail even the best intentions. When you’re too likeable or friendly, you lose a level of respect – not getting the attention and discipline needed at times. Yet on the flipside, if you are so focused on getting respect that people are fearful or intimidated by you, this can often make you unlikeable. In short, a balance of the two is key.

Extremes usually do not equal effective leadership. Veering too far in one direction or the other is not advised. Working to find balance takes a high-level of self-awareness and deliberate action – understanding how your behaviors impact the perception others have of you.

Looking to give your leaders of tomorrow the leadership skills they need to succeed? Head on over to our website to learn more about our Leadership Development Programs for Teams. If your organization is looking for a new perspective during these unprecedented times, I encourage you to contact my team and I at East Tenth Group today.