Skillsoft Blog

Dispelling Common Myths about Likability and Leadership Effectiveness

We're pleased to reprint an article from author, Jim Clemmer. 

By Jim Clemmer

“I don’t care about being liked, I just want to be respected,” is a statement
repeated by many less than extraordinary leaders. Trapped in either/or
thinking, these narrowly-focused leaders often push hard for results while
leaving a trail of damaged relationships and enervated people
behind them.

Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, is perpetuating a related gender myth in her
new book, Lean In. She relates the story of a woman leader telling her
five year-old-daughter that when Daddy does better at work, more people like
him. But when Mommy does better at work, fewer people like her. Instead of
protesting how unfair that is, the little girl tells her mother she’d try to be
less successful so more people would like her. Sandberg cites research, “that
success and likability are positively correlated for men and negatively
correlated for women.”

But that’s not what our research shows. In their Harvard
Business Review
blog, “New Research Shows Success Doesn’t
Make Women Less Likeable
,” Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman report:

“While, certainly, some individual women may find
themselves disliked as they move up the organization, our aggregate data show
the opposite is more common — that male leaders are perceived more
negatively as they rise, whereas women generally maintain their popularity
throughout their entire careers

The blog displays a graph showing that as men and women move from supervisor
to middle manager to senior and top management, both men and women see a small
likeability drop initially. But as they move into middle and senior management
roles, women recover their likeability somewhat while men do not.

For this study, Zenger Folkman developed a Likability Index
that started with “Builds Relationships.” Go to the blog for a link to
the ZF 10-item index and come up with your own Likability score.

Being liked and delivering results defines extraordinary
consistently rated in the top 10% of our database (now
compromised of over 500,000 assessments of 50,000 leaders). Exceptional
leaders are very likable.
He or she delivers outstanding
results and highly
engaged employees

Jack and Joe conclude:

“In order to be an inspiring leader and increase
employee satisfaction and engagement a key factor is to be a “likable” leader.
Being “likable” isn’t decided by your looks, personality, race, or even
, it is something that every individual has control over.”

Our upcoming Extraordinary
public workshops
in Toronto and Calgary are
a rare opportunity (we run most sessions inside organizations)
to assess your leadership effectiveness and build a strengths-based
personal improvement plan.

Reprinted with permission from The Leader Letter, Jim
Clemmer's free e-newsletter. For almost thirty years, Jim's 2,000 + practical
leadership presentations and workshops/retreats, seven bestselling books,
columns, and newsletters have been helping hundreds of thousands of people
worldwide. His web site is

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