Oct 31, 2019
In 2007, a United States soldier flew a Kiowa Warrior helicopter mission over the Kuwaiti border in Iraq. This is the location that served as a stopover to all U.S. military personnel where they were required to complete their required training before being deployed into combat.
A young lieutenant made his way through the treacherous desert of sand on the way to the Kuwait border. There he saw a sign that stopped him in his tracks. It read: We Need Leadership, Not Likership. The lieutenant thought this one over. The sign reflected just what he had been taught in the military academy. Leadership was about being respected, even feared but never liked. Likeability didn't even enter the equation. The lieutenant thought this over. There still was, he surmised, a lot of value in being liked. Being liked and being a good leader are not mutually exclusive. Likeability builds rapport, trust, and yes, leadership. The venerable maxim proves to be incorrect when we take a modern look at leadership in the workplace (or in this case, the battlefield). Yes, it's important that leaders "lead" but they also need the emotional intelligence it takes to work with actual people and have mutual high regard for each other. Yes, we can lead by fear but only if you want resentment to follow suit. In other words, to maximize job performance, if you want to lead, you must also be liked. A new course in management study seeks to challenge the antiquated style of leadership and replace it with a more ethical one. How can emotionally intelligent leadership improve job functions? What is emotionally intelligent leadership anyway? There has been an influx of job styles over the past several years. Nearly 150 articles have been written on the subject promoting over 25 different leadership styles. How is a manager supposed to keep track of these? Don't worry, it's much simpler than it seems. Everybody wants to be liked, right? It sure doesn't hurt. That doesn't mean that transformational leadership and likability doesn't mean you get to avoid the harsh truths. Quite the opposite. It's important for a leader to still be transparent, direct, and honest. It's how one uses care and concern within that honest approach that will set them apart from other leaders solely focused on being feard and respected. What is essential to understand is that while being liked is unquestionably crucial, it is not the "magic bullet" for powerful leadership. Yes, likability is extremely important but emotional intelligence needs the knowledge of other external factors to thrive. What is the economic climate in the industry? What are the governmental regulations driving the business? What are the resources available to your company? Etc. The answers to these types of questions will complete the picture of leadership that you want to exemplify. Yes, trying to befriend your direct reports can in itself be a bargain directly related to Faust. It's tricky! However, ignoring likability to your detriment may mean you rule out of resentment and not respect.
In late 2007, one of us, Charn, found himself in Camp Buehring, Kuwait, preparing to fly a Kiowa Warrior helicopter over the Iraqi border. Kuwait is a stopover where U.S. soldiers finish all required training just prior to deploying into combat. The only treacherous part of Kuwait is the sand — it is deep and very fine so walking is slow and cumbersome. One morning, as he waded through the sand on the way to the airfield, he saw a sign proclaiming, “We Need Leadership, Not Likership.”
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