Is the need to be liked shackling your career?

Women who want to move up into leadership often grapple with the need to be liked. They want to take on leadership roles but still have a need to be liked by their staff. They can be unaware of just how much the need to be liked can be shackling and holding back their career.

Cheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of the book “Lean In”, talks about women and their need to be liked. Cheryl refers to a conversation with her CEO Mark Zuckerman where he told her that the one thing that will hold her back in her Leadership is her need to be liked. Cheryl was fortunate that her CEO provided her with honest feedback and to her credit Cheryl was prepared to listen and learn from the feedback.

How does the need to be liked impact on women who want to be in leadership?

When I ask women why they fear not being liked, here are their common responses:

  • They don’t want to give their managers and colleagues honest feedback because they don’t want to offend or hurt other people’s feelings.
  • They don’t want to speak up and draw attention to themselves as they believe people don’t like women who speak up.  They are perceived as too hardnosed.
  • If I raise an issue and my colleagues or my team don’t agree with me then they won’t like me.
  • It’s easier to be liked if you avoid conflict
  • It easier to be promoted if people like you.
  • If I speak up at a meeting and suggest new ideas people will think that I am too smart for my own good.

When we look at the women’s comments about wanting to be liked there are some common patterns of behaviour that impact on their ability to be effective leaders.

Effective leaders need to learn to be confident and comfortable with:

  • Making tough decisions
  •  Saying no
  • Having difficult conversations
  • Giving and receiving negative feedback
  • Dealing with conflict

Overcoming the need to be liked

If we want to be effective leaders, then we need to get over the need to be liked.  We can’t sit on the fence and not take ownership. I recently had a Manager of a large organisation say “I just want my Managers to manage. I am sick of them avoiding the difficult conversations and wanting to be seen as a nice boss and be liked.”

It is unrealistic to think that everyone is going to like us and it is unrealistic to think that we will like everyone. What we do know is that we like leaders who are honest with us. We like to know where we stand and what is expected of us. We need to be able, to be honest with people and this requires us to get over the need to be liked.

We need to take ownership and get rid of the shackle of wanting to be liked and concentrate on being effective through being honest and authentic in our conversations.

If you are a women living in the Pilbara and interested in developing your leaderships skills or an aspiring leader, Kylah Morrison and myself are running a two-day Women in Leadership Masterclass on 16 & 17 March

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