Being Liked And Respected And Building Leaders

Steven Lay (October 08, 2015)

Abstract Popularity Concept. Many Yellow Balls with One Red Ball in the Center.

Having spent a portion of my life in the Navy I have always been intrigued with leadership styles, skills and whether effective leadership can be acquired or whether it is an innate attribute. The fundamental discussion about leadership is: Would you rather be liked, respected or feared? Coincidentally, my interest is around wine tasting room experiences and team building in general.

Before the question is discussed and hopefully answered consider the following discussion points.

  • Are good leaders recognized differently within various industries? For example, would a person appreciated as being a good leader in one industry/company, let’s say a company that drills for oil, be a good leader in a software development company? Such considerations are not far fetched as businesses in America reach out for leaders in disparate industries. In this case we are not addressing business sectors but rather industries.
  • Culturally, are there different desired leadership criteria applied to women versus men? In a recent article that appears in Yahoo! News, there was a discussion around the special leadership skills of women that are leading companies and their successes. Not surprising, the author was commenting on Ms. Marissa Mayer who is the CEO of Yahoo. E-bay, HP, GM, and IBM, just to name a few others, have women heading up large companies with complex structures.
  • Do skill sets have a bearing on who is recognized as a great leader? For example, in industries where the majority of people possess creative skills (art, acting, and music for example), do they have a different standard for good leaders? The music industry would probably put a different set of values on leaders who understood the idiosyncrasies of creative people. Further, there are occasional reports on how various performers (in movies and on stage) are respected, but not liked and might go so far as to be hated. We have just touched upon the concept that leading personalities can be respected but not liked. And, some of those opinions may not be universally accepted within an industry.
  • It is obvious that not everyone in an organization will like a leader, no matter what he/she would or could do to ingratiate themselves with their team. These feelings can be rooted in a person’s values, culture, age, work history and the list can go infinitum. Leaders that chase the “wan ‘a-be liked by everyone” theorem will find it to be self destructive; it will never happen.
  • As roles within a team change, expect opinions relative to a person’s likability and respect quotient will change. The interpersonal dynamics within an organization are always different when viewed as-employer by employee, and conversely, employee by employer.
  • The effort expended within an organization to be liked and respected, can those attributes translate into improvements in the sales effort? Ask in another way: Are sales people more successful by being liked or respected.
  • Is charisma part of the leader’s skill set? Charisma does not seem to be as universally accepted or recognized as being liked and respected. It can be a fine line between that and arrogance and disrespect. Mostly, it is a personality trait that can be tenable.
  • Can a majority on a team that respects and/or likes their leader influence a minority group in a team who hold their leader in less regards. Intimidation can be the glue that binds in negating opinions of the minority.

Back to the question-as a leader of a team/organization, would you rather be liked, respected or feared? As discussed earlier, let’s discount the use of fear as a leadership tool because once it is used by a leader it is akin to un-ringing a bell. Fear as a leadership style is not a foundation a successful company is built upon by good leaders.

Being left with likability and respect, based upon military and corporate experiences, I would say good leaders have both skills. The percentage mix between the two will change based upon economic environment, industry, changes in objectives and strategies, workforce changes and the function the leader is in charge of (sales, manufacturing, operations, finance, etc.). This being said, there are still some fundamental rules that apply to being liked and respect and both are acquired/required skills.

As a leader of a team, it is generally agreed that we want to be liked and respected. We also recognize not everyone will like us but should respect us, and the environment will dictate leadership style. But, there are some general rules relative to how to interact with people on a day to day basis that build likability and respect.

Always try to make people feel good about their relationship with you, their leader. Be accessible to all members of the team. This means treating people equally, which is different than the same. New people to a team require more leading than veterans on a team. But, veterans respect being treated a little more hands-off and respect a leader delegating more.

Transmit via actions and words to the team that they are collectively and individually appreciated and they are respected. It is not enough to tell team members you see their successes even if you don’t comment on them. That is a cheap way of saying you don’t care to go out of your way to comment and show appreciation.

By deed show people they do matter to the team within the organization and even beyond. Develop ways to recognize a team member individually for achievements outside of work.

Work on being a good likeable and respected leader daily. In the Navy I liked and respected a specific senior officer because every morning he came aboard excited about the day, the mission and his staff. He made sure he said good morning to everyone and ask how they were doing. He really listened to their answers. He would write personal notes to spouses and families who were experiencing joy and defeats. He was a good leader everyone liked. He sounded gruff but everyone knews it was an act. In later years it was a skill I tried to develop.

I also learned that you do not intrude into someone’s job. Senior leaders are respected more when they lead and not come down to team members level to try and prove they are just the same and willing to “get their hands dirty”. People want to be lead and respect their leaders with pride. Senior leaders fight for their teams and hand out justifiable corrective actions fairly.

Leadership is fun, requires a lot of daily effort, requires being involved, must recognize that there is maintenance time involved to keep things in balance and in the end it is rewarding. This is why I am a big fan in saying that team leaders require team building events also; because change is inevitable!

Now we can call attention to some specifics. Some of these are in every management 101 course but still worth reviewing because of contextual changes in teams and organizations. Creating and building likability or respect requires some thought.

Use a person’s name. I have written a lot about winery tasting rooms and some changes in that activity. Let me give you an example of a recent experience my wife and I had at a tasting. We did have a reservation and when we arrived we were not ask for our name, we were ask the time of our reservation. At that point the hostess called us by name, wrote our name on a table tent card and took us to our table. When the concierge came to our table (we were outdoors) he saw our name and commented on the spelling and asks about the origin of the name. He always referred to us as Mr. and Mrs. Lay. Very classy and made us feel important, and yes we bought wine and gladly paid for the tasting also.

Ask people questions to let them talk about themselves. When they reply make eye contact and listen to them respond. Never let outsiders or distractions take away from listening to a team member or customer.

Smile at people as a way to acknowledge you are interested in them and are listening to them.

Include new arrivals into the personal space of a small group discussion. This can be done by stepping to the side to make room in the circle or simply touching a person on the shoulder or arm.

Volunteer to help others outside of your own team. Such a move will not only be recognized as giving of yourself but it reinforces your standing within your own team.

Stay positive in supporting all management. Everyone has faults and differences of opinions, which are fine. But, piling-on is not helpful to a team leader building likability or respect and does not help with clients or customers.

Be genuinely interested in the customer, the team members and vendors. Their opinions do matter in building a leaders reputation as a good leader that is respected and liked.

The active and passive feedback you will receive from your personal contacts will also allow you to put the right people in the right job. This will allow you to make good delegating decisions. From all feedback you will be able to make the right decisions on training and team building events. And keep asking your team what you can do for them to make their job or life better at the company and in their home. Remember, the majority of a team member’s time is at and thinking about their job.

Being likeable and respected is asking for peoples input, accepting input and putting it into a plan and recognizing individual and team performance relative to the plan. When the team wins, the fans win also. A lead is likeable when they are the biggest fan of the team.

In the final analysis, I agree with an author I once read that put it very succinctly: Respect is linked to competence and productivity, and I add, likability without respect is less effective.

I got on this subject because leaders are also made, yes, some are also born. But somewhere along the trail inherited DNA allowed them to bring it out due to some triggering events. I believe the simplest of wineries can employ leadership, likability and respect skills to help sell wine and build a winery operation.

Think about likability and respect and how these power tools are available to you and don’t get esoteric about thinking about it.

Let me leave you with a “rubber meets the road” story.

I first met a one man winery owner, with a small vineyard, and he does it all; prune, crush, bottle, greet visitors and sell his own wine. His wines are great. His tasting room is small, quaint and unassuming. I see him maybe once every year or so. He always comes out from behind his counter when my wife and I come in and greats us both warmly with a hand on the shoulder. He never forgets to ask about our health and reminds us that wine is good for health. He genuinely wants to hear about our young granddaughters and our son and daughter-in-law and his eyes are as intense as his smile when you talk to him. Everybody in his tasting room gets the same greeting. He is liked and respected. He says what he means and means what he says and it is always positive. I would say he is a very smart, real leader, who is willing to share his secrets to fine wine.

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