Think back to the leaders in your life that you liked. They were also the ones who were most successful, right? According to an article in Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge, “Fool vs. Jerk: Whom Would You Hire?” research shows that no matter the organization or industry, everyone wants to work with a “loveable star” who combines competence and likeability. Leaders with a high emotional intelligence are also those that significantly outperform those who aren’t able to manage emotions—their own and others—according to research data from TalentSmart.
Although we always sensed it, leading with an iron fist is not the strategy for long-term success. In pursuit of being more likeable, because this is something you can completely control, let’s look at some of the timeless habits of likeable leaders.
1. They have integrity
Actions speak louder than words for likeable leaders, so they don’t just talk about integrity they demonstrate it. Codes of values and ethics aren’t just empty promises on the wall, likeable leaders commit to them.
2. Give time generously
Even though likeable leaders are very busy, they interact with people even when they don’t need anything done. There’s no hidden agenda. They also do this in an authentic way, so people feel valued, rather than just a checkmark on a to-do list.
3. They are humble
Even though successful leaders have much to brag about, likeable leaders don’t exhibit arrogance. In fact, they recognize the gifts of others on their team for contributing to their success.
4. They are steady
Likeable leaders are even-keeled and know there will be ups and downs in business. They don’t overreact and are predictable in their responses to any triggers. Their steadiness in the face of challenges allows those they lead to react in a similar way.
5. They form connections
Likeable leaders never forget they are dealing with humans and never miss an opportunity to form a personal connection with those they interact with, even when it’s in a crowded room.
6. They are positive
Likeable leaders are positive in words and actions. They are grateful for every opportunity and enthusiastic about the possibilities of each day. That positivity is tantalizing to the people they lead and makes a huge impact.
7. They are generous
Likeable leaders want nothing more than to help you succeed. They are generous with their time, resources and connections to help those they lead become the best possible versions of themselves.
8. They listen
Likeable leaders take the time to listen for understanding. When they interact with people, they focus the conversation on the other people and not make it about them as the leader.
9. They are focused
When likeable leaders are in the room, they dedicate their attention to the task at hand. Yes, this means arriving on time, putting phones away and respecting the individuals in the room as well as the objective of the meeting.
10. They work hard, but have fun
All work and no play makes for a very unlikeable leader. People who can laugh, have fun and maintain a healthy balance between work and life are much more likeable leaders.
11. They are honest
People want honesty and constructive criticism. Likeable leaders deliver both. They don’t avoid difficult conversations because they keep the best interests of the individuals top of mind. Even if dishonestly isn’t recognized at first, it’s only a matter of time that it will be. Likeable leaders know that honesty is always the best policy.
12. They make mistakes
Likeable leaders are human just like the rest of us, and when they acknowledge their mistakes it makes their humanity tangible for the rest of us. Powerful leaders can sometimes be elevated to super-star status, so when we realize they are human just like us, it helps us connect.
Remember, you can become a likeable leader. All of the habits I listed here are learnable. Not only are likeable leaders valuable to their organizations, they are also successful. What would you add to my list of timeless habits of likeable leaders?
Bernard Marr is a world-renowned futurist, influencer and thought leader in the field of business and technology. He is the author of 18 best-selling books, writes a regular column for Forbes and advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations. He has 2 million social media followers and was ranked by LinkedIn as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK.