Why Not Like Instead of Love?

Chapter 1, page 23-24 from  “Lead With Love” by Gerry Czarnecki                

You may ask, “Why use the word love when the word like would be easier? Why not say that every leader must like people?”

For our purpose, the word love is more accurate and less confusing than the word like. Indeed, the proposition that leaders must like those they lead is flawed. When you like a person, what does that mean? Usually it means that person’s personality characteristics, core beliefs, character traits, or even physical appearance, for some reason, appeal to either your emotions or logical thought. The person may have treated you nicely, smiled at you on a day you were unhappy, complimented you when you needed confidence building, or helped you think through a personal or business problem. You may even have an unexplained bond with that person, which made you feel an emotional attraction almost immediately. You may have nothing in common or everything in common, but you feel comfortable being around that person.

In the same way, liking your associates can help you to enjoy the people you lead. It makes you feel good to lead people you like. In turn, since the chemistry usually goes both ways, the people you are leading will probably like you and feel good about you. If all of this good comes out of liking, then what is wrong with the idea that you should like the people you lead?

 Here’s what’s wrong: How many situations have you been in where you could say that you liked everybody in the group you were leading? If you have a group of two people, then you might expect that you will like both of them. However, most of us are charged with the responsibility of leading larger groups. If you are a sales manager who takes over a sales force of ten, the odds of not liking at least one person in that group are much greater.

Let’s also hypothesize that the one person you do not like, for whatever reason, is also the top salesperson in the group and has the highest customer loyalty. In addition, that person has the best relationship with the manufacturing division and has always had the highest peer group ratings as well. At this point you might say, “If this person is that good, then obviously I would like her.” Indeed, that might be true. The opposite happens frequently as well. You can have a top performer you truly dislike. If you have been a leader for any period of time, you have been in that situation and probably have struggled with the consequences.

If liking is a requirement of good leadership, how can you lead this person? By that definition, you cannot. So what do you do? Your dislike usually becomes a barrier to communication. If you do not like a person, it is very difficult to hide your dislike. The other person will sense how you feel and begin to react negatively to you as well. Slowly, you begin to distance yourselves from each other in an effort to avoid the undesirable contact. Worse still, you will invariably become overly critical of the person. Eventually these tensions will result in either termination or transfer of the subordinate. Bias wins every time.

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