Being likeable at work

Often, being a good leader means making decisions employees may not like. But choosing the right decision – even if it’s unpopular with the overall office – is one of the hallmarks of effective leadership.

However, that doesn’t mean being a leader automatically makes you unlikeable. And while being liked isn’t a prerequisite for being a leader, likable people can be a great motivator for employees.

We'll look at the pros and cons of being likeable as a leader, and answer the pressing question: do you need to be liked in order to lead?

RELATED: A leader’s role in a high-performance team

The benefits and drawbacks of being likeable as a leader

The most obvious aspect of likeability is being friendly to others. Leaders who are easy to talk to, warm and generally positive are seen as more likeable to those that are not. Likeable leaders are also empathetic, honest, and good at listening to others.

In addition to this, according to Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, likeability plays a key role when it comes to influencing others. Being relatable and demonstrating that you’re genuinely interested in another person, they are more likely to listen to what you have to say. They’re also more likely to go that extra mile to innovate, or get the job done.

But likeability is subjective.

While certain things – being a good listener and being empathetic, for example – are important for effective leaders, being likeable isn’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to leading a high-performing team.

In fact, it’s almost impossible for anyone, whether they’re a leader or otherwise, to be seen positively by everyone. If you are trying to please everyone, you’ll almost certainly fail — and you could very well lose the respect of your colleagues or team along the way due to people pleasing.

What matters the most as a leader is that you’re exceptional at what you do. The best leaders are also always decisive, proactive, knowledgeable and fair, and are willing to make decisions that favour long-term goals over short-term popularity.

Ultimately, having that vision is far more important than being likeable. There are many examples of successful leaders who were seen as difficult. Steve Jobs was notorious for demanding too much from his employees, making him tough to work with. But while he certainly wasn’t liked, he was respected and people believed in his vision for Apple products.

Is likeability essential for leaders?

While being likeable isn’t a prerequisite to be a leader, it does goes a long way. If you want to get the best out of your employees, you can’t rule out the importance of being liked and, importantly being trusted. Leaders who are likeable inspire their employees to work hard every day and innovate when they need to. Plus, they’re more influential and respected.

At the end of the day, it depends on your organisation and your preferences as a leader. No two leaders are the same, and how you approach your employees boils down to your personality and leadership style, plus the organisation and staff you are leading.

RELATED: 6 qualities of a great leader

9 tips for being more likeable at work

If you've become aware that your approach isn't as effective as you'd like and genuinely want to improve your likeability, we've gathered helpful tips that you can implement in your life. Take what resonates and leave the rest:

  1. Be friendly and approachable: Smile, greet your colleagues, use eye contact and maintain a positive attitude. Using coworkers names is helpful too. Create a warm and welcoming environment that encourages open communication and collaboration.

  2. Show interest in others: Take the time to listen actively and show genuine interest in the coworkers you spend time with. Engage in conversations, ask questions, offer a genuine compliment and remember details about their lives and interests.

  3. Demonstrate empathy and kindness: Show empathy towards your coworkers' challenges and offer support when needed. Be kind and considerate in your interactions, treating others with respect and understanding.

  4. Communicate effectively: Practice clear and concise communication, both in written and verbal forms. Be an active listener, respond promptly to messages, be mindful of your body language and express yourself in a respectful and considerate manner. Open and transparent talking will help you as a leader foster collaboration, build trust and drive your team towards success.

  5. Be a team player: Collaborate and cooperate with your colleagues to achieve common goals. Offer assistance when appropriate and be willing to share credit for successes.

  6. Maintain an optimistic attitude: Stay optimistic even in challenging situations. Avoid excessive complaining or negativity, as it can come across as defeat and bring down team morale. Instead, focus on finding solutions and maintaining a positive work environment.

  7. Be reliable and trustworthy: Fulfill your commitments, meet deadlines, and deliver high-quality work. Build trust with your coworkers by being dependable and maintaining confidentiality when necessary.

  8. Display professionalism: Maintain a professional demeanour and adhere to workplace policies and standards. Practice good time management, and strive for excellence in your work.

  9. Offer recognition and appreciation: Acknowledge the contributions of your coworkers and express gratitude for their efforts. Celebrate achievements, both big and small, and publicly recognise the valuable work of your colleagues.

Likeability at work is not about being a people-pleaser or compromising your values. It's about building positive relationships, fostering a supportive work environment, and contributing to a harmonious team dynamic.

We recruit on behalf of the world's top companies. Fast-track your success with the right team. Explore how we can quickly match you with top talent.

Find your next hire

Salary Guide Australia

Discover your value with salary benchmarks across various industries.

Compare my salary

Build your dream team

We'll quickly match you with skilled and experienced candidates.

Explore Michael Page

Australia Talent Trends 2024

Discover the Expectation Gap between employees and employers, and learn how to bridge it effectively.

Download report

Topics to help you lead & inspire

Advertise your role with us

Advertise Your Role With ReachTalent

If you are looking for a job, you can browse jobs here

Are you hiring?

If you are an employer and would like to discuss your hiring needs, fill in the form below and we will call you back.


IMPORTANT: By submitting your email address and any other personal information to this website, you consent to such information being collected, held, used and disclosed in accordance with our PRIVACY POLICY and our website TERMS AND CONDITIONS.