The leadership dilemma: do you like me and does it matter?

Star performers, top influencers or industry leaders deserve your attention, whether you’re planning a start-up venture or growing your existing project. These business figureheads are fast becoming global personalities, sharing success strategies via newsletters, vlogs and social media channels. But, likability isn’t necessarily why audiences share influencers’ content with abandon - despite what the 'like' button stats might suggest. Here’s why it’s not essential to be liked.

Aspiring leader? Kindness is key

Leaders are often recruited, influencers are often self-propelled. Either way, to succeed in business meanings hitting ambitious targets - which requires strategic savvy. Perhaps focusing less on being liked and focusing more on kindness is key. It’s a theory that SEO guru and Seattle-based influencer, Rand Fishkin, suggests.

Founder and former CEO of Moz, Fishkin, argues that likeability doesn’t equate to stellar team performance. 

"There are plenty of leaders who aren't liked by their teams but are respected and still command influence," says Rand. "The caveat I'd add, though, is that psychological safety and kindness have been repeatedly found to have the highest correlation with team performance. Your people don't have to like you, but they do have to feel that you treat them with kindness.”

Lead better by listening

Heeding the advice of an entrepreneur, investor and internet personality with 1.3m Twitter followers could be a clever move.

Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO and co-founder of VaynerMedia - and star of The #AskGaryVee Show - recommends focusing your energy on satisfying your audience’s self-interest.

"The only way someone will over deliver for you is for you to attack their own selfishness," said Gary. "You may be selfish in asking for people to over-deliver for you, but the only way for that to be executed on is for you to over-deliver for them.

"The single best way to win is to provide for 51% of the relationship, forcing them to be good enough to deliver on the other 49%. This is why people say a relationship is a two way street. It could not be more true for me, and it applies to your team. One hundred per cent. Your employees will go above and beyond if you show them you are listening. I’ve done it for my own team, and I can tell you: it works."

It’s okay to be disliked

Should you water down your individual tone of voice or 'meh' your message to boost your social media stats? And does being liked make money?

Influencers can win business and make money by sharing their high level of expertise in their specialist field - by writing or conference speaking, for example. Consumers and clients are likely to gravitate and remain loyal to a genuinely influential voice, rather than a voice that panders to social media approval in the form of likes and shares.

Ed Leake, considered a Top 100 influencer in digital marketing, suggests focusing on spheres that matter to you on an individual level.

"In the modern world it’s very easy for naysayers to proclaim their disdain for someone," said Ed. "Technology has enabled open, frank exchanges between public figures and leaders, and those who have an opinion.

Read: Meditation and its impact on modern leadership

"Social media is a prime example of this, and whilst in some unfortunate cases it can lead to ‘trolling’ - or worse, bullying - for the most part, the freedom of speech imparted should be encouraged. If the pursuit of being ‘liked’ is merely to tick some emotional ego-biased box, then it’s all the more important for people to have the power to highlight this.

"Leaders are by their nature closer to the epicentre of any decision and therefore expose themselves to ridicule. But leaders who grasp the nettle and pursue what they stand for, not for political gain and without agenda, understand this reality. In doing so, not only do they curry favour with admirers but with sceptics alike too. And it’s not just influential people that should appreciate that it’s okay to be disliked. We should all embrace the empowering reality that we simply can’t please everyone, and instead focus on building influence in the spheres that matter to us on an individual level."

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Please see for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.


Our Companies

Quick Links