Are you liked or respected?


What do you prefer?

This is a somewhat philosophical question. If you could choose, would you rather be liked or respected? The obvious answer is that you would prefer to be both, like Nelson Mandela, I guess. People like to be with you because you are such a warm, loyal and fun person, and they respect you for your competence, farsightedness and drive in business. They love and fear you, you are the One.

Well, that is rarely the case. The truth is that many people working together neither like nor respect each other. They are often totally fed up with the people around them.

Whether you want to be liked or respected is a matter of personal preference. If you look at a leader like Steve Jobs at Apple, he probably did not care whether he was liked or not. His point was to deliver innovative products and build company and customer value. And he was respected for that. Colin Powell, the former US general and Secretary of State, is quoted for saying: “Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.”

It is rare for a leader to be both liked and respected, as there will always be many conflicting views around a person who has a job leading others. In a company you usually have a lot of people with great leadership skills, despite not being Formal Leaders in the organizational chart. They are liked because they are such great buddies in their teams, and respected because they have great skills in whatever they do and inspire others. They are developers, key account managers, support staff and others who just create a good atmosphere, bring a cake to work and play table tennis with their team while doing a good job. That’s your everyday leader, the Mindset Leader that the organization depends on.

One of the most important things that makes people happy is the opportunity to be with people they like. So if you want people to enjoy their job, to be more motivated and happy, be sure to recruit likable people, create a culture where it’s fun and where people like to be, and be a person yourself that others can like. Achieve this and you will be liked, and probably respected, too.

There is another aspect to this, described by Robert Cialdini in his book Influence: if you like people and show it, there is a high probability that they will like you back. How do you show it? Simply say, ‘I like you.’ Try it.