The Importance of Being Likable

By | September 25, 2020

[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!


Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

24 thoughts on “The Importance of Being Likable

  1. Orange Man

    Another enjoyable article that points out clearly the direction leaders should take particularly from an early age, if possible.

    1. Willie Shrumburger

      Yes, Orange Man, and a way that many have overlooked or just rejected. They have no idea the power of being likable.

  2. JT Patterson

    Never underestimate the human soul. We like people who give us positive feedback. And, we go out of our way to do good things for them. Those with bad attitudes are fighting an uphill battle.

  3. Max Foster

    Under appreciated trait of a leader. Too many confuse this concept plus they believe they must be “liked” by everyone. That is impossible and maybe a good thing too. When you have people who don’t like you, it gives you an opportunity to bring them over to your side. Maybe they have something that is useful that you can put into your leadership toolbox. Just think about that for a minute. Yep, listen to others as if they have something important to contribute.

    1. Harry B. Donner

      That is so true, Max. Well said. I will add that many leaders (usually managers, so not truly leaders) that I’ve known have no desire to be liked. But they also don’t reach their full potential either.

    2. Jonathan B.

      Well said. This comment is one of the reasons I read the comments forum here. I say, read this section daily, it only takes a few minutes and you will gain a lot.

  4. José Luis Rodriguez

    Thanks Gen. Satterfield for another spot-on article on an important leader quality. 👍

  5. Dead Pool Guy

    Imagine this article coming out today. I watched Pres Trump at a big rally in Florida last night and you could tell from the crowd and how he acted just how much he is liked. I’m not a big Trump fan but anyone watching the “show” could tell instantly he is very likable.

    1. old warrior

      ….. and “Slow Joe” is not likable. Have pit on Joe Biden, that is the only way he’ll attract voters. So, Joe Biden has the leftists and the pity-makers on his side. Trump has everyone else. Joe, take a hint from Trump. Get your butt out there and campaign.

      1. Tony B. Custer

        I got a big kick out your comment, old warrior. as always. Thanks for making my day.

    2. lydia truman

      I’m a Joe Biden fan, so naturally I will disagree a bit with your analysis but there is certainly no denying the likability of President Trump. But it is not likability that gets the job done.

  6. Kenny Foster

    As I sit here drinking my morning cup of coffee and with my dog at my feet, I’m enjoying the day. When I was a working man in the manufacturing business, I found that those managers who got the most done were those that also were liked the most. They made fair but hard decisions. People respected them for it. So, I believe respectability is one of the likable traits. What are the others? Gen. Satterfield laid some of the out for us here.

    1. Willie Shrumburger

      Good comment, Kenny. Yes, it would be easier for us if Gen. Satterfield simply listed what made up the trait of “likability.”

      1. Benny

        Willie, you can read them for yourself, they were linked to below. I agree that he can only do so much, so let’s read for ourselves and do our own bit of research.

      2. Tracey Brockman

        Willie, yes but we can do it ourselves too. Hey, Eric, great comment.

  7. Jonnie the Bart

    Another exceptional article on the vitalness of being liked by others. Once again, I will say that much care needs to be taken with this trait.

    1. Tom Bushmaster

      Thanks Eric for taking the time to hunt these down and link to these important blog posts by Gen. Satterfield. I found the second one most informative.

    2. Len Jakosky

      Thanks Eric. All these are great and help me understand better today’s article too.

  8. Army Captain

    Even in the US army, being likable is important and that is true regardless of position. I would not hesitate to write that the higher you go in rank, the more you should pay attention to being likable. Again, as distinguished from being popular. Just remember, the fact that you are a leader means that some people will not like you.

  9. Randy Goodman

    I have found the same thing. But too many young people think this means being popular and being liked no matter what. All that is untrue. There is a way that Gen. Satterfield has noted before in earlier articles on being likable.

    1. ARay Pittman

      Yes! I’ve found the same thing. This website has a long list of articles on how to improve yourself and likability is one that has been hit upon at least three times.

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