Do You Suffer From “The Need To Be Liked” by Violet Dhu

Ladies, Is the need to be liked holding you back in your career and your leadership?

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.

I have been working with women in the Pilbara Region over the past 2 weeks and it was a common theme. “We worry about what people think and we fear being seen as a tyrant, hardnosed and not being liked.”

Cheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of the book “Lean In”, also 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 lead or 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 these comments from women, about wanting to be liked, there are some common patterns of behaviour that negatively 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
  • Dealing with resistance

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 just 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.

If we wish to be more effective leaders, then we need to take ownership and get rid of the shackle of wanting to be liked. We need to concentrate on being effective through being honest and authentic in our conversations and our
leadership style.

Comments 2

  1. This sounds really interesting do you have a presentation based on this – I have been to your having the difficult conversation in Adelaide?

    1. Post

      Hi Ali,
      Great to hear from you.
      I do an Assertiveness for women that you might find helpful.
      If you would like to have a chat with me I am happy to give you a call.


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