[September 25, 2020] Over the past several years, I’ve mentored many young leaders in the Boys Scouts, Police Departments, on college campuses, and in the business world. I always emphasize to them the importance of being likable. Here is a fact of life; if people like you, they will give you opportunities others will not get.
That’s right. People who are the most likable get more shots at success. Call it human nature (which it probably is) or human bias; the indisputable truth is that the most important quality a person can have is a consistently likable disposition. Nothing else comes close to being so important. You can be smart, experienced, “pedigreed,” and wise, but you will never be treated as well if others like you.
Here are some suggestions that can make you more likable. Have some humility, be genuine and tell the truth, show you care about others, respect others, keep your commitments, share credit for accomplishments, help people, and don’t blame others or whine. If you’re not likable, work on it. If you are likable, get better. Simple. Likable people do better in life and are happier.
The simple truth is, as a leader, you will be continuously judged on everything you do. Your job, health, looks, speech, and clothing are being evaluated when you step into a room with others. From every human angle, people will see you for what you are, and there is no escape from it. To be likable means
Likable people’s bosses let them do things they don’t let other people do.1 When likable people stumble, others help them. Likable people call this kindness; unlikable people call it office politics. People like to work with and be around likable people. Most workplaces are relatively small. The United States Army active duty population is about 470,0002; you will see that person again in the future. Be careful about how you present yourself.
My first Company Commander was not a likable person. We often worked against him just because he was unkind to soldiers in our unit. Leaders will fail if they are unlikable. He was never promoted to Field Grade officer and left the service disgruntled because he thought everyone was against him, and he was right.
Likability is a social skill. With effort, anyone can be likable. Many attributes are closely associated with being likable (like courage, commitment, truthfulness, and friendliness). Separating them is impossible, so that means getting better at a long list of behaviors that impact us every day. Good luck!