Is it Necessary for Leaders to be Liked?


While the expression, “I really like my manager,” is about as common as “I really like snakes,” the expression does raise the question of whether likability is necessary for leader success.

General Patton achieved great victories in World War II under the most trying conditions. Even his defeated enemies heaped praise on his leadership. Yet, General Patton was often at odds with peers and superiors. General Eisenhower once suspended Patton for slapping two soldiers because they were in hospitals without an apparent physical illness.

By contrast, General Bradley became known as the “soldier’s general” and was almost universally liked.

More recently, Julie Bort reports in BUSINESS INSIDER that some of the least liked CEO’s today are leading successful companies.

I think most successful leaders spend even less time thinking about being liked than they do counting the candles on their birthday cake. Successful leaders do what they must do. Some like what they do; others do not.

I do believe the unlikable needle can drop so low it will cause leader failure. Al Dunlop, while leading Sunbeam Products, earned the nickname of “Chainsaw Al.” His ruthless approach, combined with massive accounting frauds, make him a fixture on lists of the worst CEO’s.

Leaders probably should not work at “being liked.” Still, they must earn enough loyalty to remain in charge when the situation appears hopeless.

What do you think?

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