Business owners must lead a company with confidence and authority. However, owners who rule with an iron fist are generally not very popular among their employees. The owner may have trouble finding support in times of need.
Ideally, business owners should strive to be a likeable leader—yet not too likeable, lest they be mistaken for a pushover. Finding the right balance between the two can be tricky. Here are some tips for being a likeable leader without being a pushover.
How to Be a Likeable Leader
Everybody wants to be liked in one way or another. Pleasing others is a natural desire. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs places Social Needs, such as belongingness and love, as third most important, just beyond Basic and Safety Needs. Being a likeable leader can help create a positive and productive work environment.
- Be Honest. Encourage honesty, and lead by example. Show that being honest, even when it’s hard, is always the right choice. Being dishonest in front of your employees will show it’s acceptable for them to be dishonest as well. Even to you!
- Listen and Respond. It’s important to listen to your employees. If possible, stop whatever you are doing, give them your attention, and listen. If they have new ideas or recommendations, take notes while they are talking. Be open to employees’ suggestions, and see if there’s a more efficient or cost-effective way to accomplish the same goals.
- Be a Team Player. Be willing to roll up your sleeves and do the work yourself. Standing on a podium and shouting orders isn’t going to make you very likeable. Employees should see that you are capable of doing their job in times of need. But when things are running smoothly, they know you trust them to go it alone.
- Delegate and Trust. While you may be capable of doing everything yourself, in the end, this is counter-productive. Teach your employees to carry specific responsibilities, which will give you more time to discover new opportunities. Delegating will also allow you to go out of town worry-free, whether it’s for personal or business purposes. It’s also important for you to trust your employees. David Kiger with Worldwide Express provides franchise owners with a business model, but he trusts them with the overall responsibility of running the business.
- Be Fair. While you may get along with certain employees better than others, don’t play favorites. Treat your employees fairly. To be fair doesn’t mean you treat everyone exactly the same. It means knowing your employees well enough to know what motivates them and what discourages them.
Don’t Be a Pushover
While you want your employees to like you, you don’t need to be their doormat. Catering to their needs, solving their problems, and letting them do whatever they want is not beneficial for you or them.
- Don’t Do Their Work for Them. It’s okay to occasionally share your skills, but don’t let your employees take advantage of your kindness. You shouldn’t stay late finishing their work while they are enjoying dinner with their family.
- Don’t Correct Their Mistakes. If an employee turns in a report or project to you, and there are corrections that need to be made, don’t make them yourself. When you have time, show the employee what changes need to be made. Otherwise they’ll continue to make the same mistakes over and over.
- Don’t Allow Office Rules to Be Ignored. If employees ignore the dress code, set their own hours, or ignore other company policies, you need to address the issue immediately. Allowing this behavior to continue is equivalent to telling employees the company policies aren’t important.
- Don’t Skip Feedback. People learn and grow from feedback. If you are unhappy with an employee’s performance, you need to set up a meeting and review the issues with the employee. If you say nothing, then most likely nothing will change. Either the employee doesn’t know, or the employee doesn’t care. A meeting will address both issues.
- Don’t Ignore Conflict. If there is a situation that needs attention, it’s best if you deal with it swiftly. Don’t let it fester, which allows additional employees the opportunity to get involved.
While being likeable isn’t a bad thing, don’t make it your ultimate goal. Be assertive, and be an inspiration. Encourage your employees, and praise them when appropriate. Earn the respect of your employees, and in return you’ll have hard-working and loyal workers.
What leadership tips do you have for small business owners?