Leadership: You Can Be Liked and Respected

There has been a long-running debate about whether leaders should strive to be liked or respected. Of course, the proper business answer is always that respect is the more pertinent quality. I do not believe, however, that the two are mutually exclusive. It is quite possible to be both liked and respected. I think that what it really comes down to, like so many other situations in life, is how you treat people.

If you are willing to put in the same amount of effort that you expect from your employees, they will recognize your work ethic. If you include them in the decisions that affect their work lives, and show that their input is important (even though you can’t always appease everyone), they will feel valued. And, if you communicate with them clearly so they know what you expect from them (especially by giving them feedback when they do well, not just when they make mistakes), they will strive to do their best.  All of these actions consider the human element of business, and thus command both likability and respect.

Conversely, if you just give orders without showing your own contributions, employees may become resentful. If you make decisions without recognizing how they might impact your employees, you will cause frustration and low morale. And, if you expect workers to read your mind, you will have difficulty getting the desired performance from them. In any of these scenarios, your employees probably will not like or respect you, and your company will suffer.

Employees who feel they simply work for, and not with, someone are not usually satisfied with their jobs. People want to feel connected to the company’s future. So, owners and managers who take the time to discuss work with the employees, and get their points of view about how the business is running, often get helpful insight and ideas for improvement. According to Goman (2014), “Today’s most successful leaders guide their organizations not through command and control, but through a shared purpose and vision” (para. 8). This type of collaborative leadership is key to bridging that gap to be both liked and respected. When you show employees that they are important to the business, the entire dynamic can change, and your reputation as a leader can flourish.


Goman, C.K. (2014). 8 tips for collaborative leadership. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/carolkinseygoman/2014/02/13/8-tips-for-collaborative-leadership/