MPW Insiders is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How important is likability when it comes to leadership? is written by Ruder Finn CEO Kathy Bloomgarden.
It is human nature to want to be well liked. It is something we value in almost all social circles and is a normal desire to carry this over into the work setting. But in today’s fast-paced world and highly competitive market, being liked can’t be a goal or an objective when it comes to leadership. Being a strong leader isn’t about being popular. It takes courage to make hard decisions, ability to execute and deliver fast-paced thinking as well as the willingness to give your teams tough love to succeed. It is important to strike a balance between being kind and having compassion for those you work with, and also drive strong quality standards and sense of discipline needed to drive results and ultimately, to win.
This has most rung true for me during those uncomfortable moments of transition. The path in business, just like the path in life, is not a straight line and is constantly met by ups and downs, and we must course correct and make the necessary shifts in strategy to drive success. As a leader, it is our responsibility to disrupt the waters – our teams depend on it. It truly takes guts to be bold, drive change and demand excellence.
Sometimes people on the team will have hurt feelings; others might feel left behind. Some want you to listen more to their views before taking any actions. But if you hang back and falter, you may miss the moment. I remember being convinced to hold one more meeting before we launched a campaign against a competitor, although my instinct told me to charge ahead. The time lapse set us back, and as a result, we were not able to get ahead of the competition. I vowed never to do this again.
Leaders have to move decisively to set the bar and serve as the model for meeting and exceeding it. In those moments you can’t worry about being liked, you have to focus on taking the right steps to build a strong and successful business and getting the right people to go along on the journey with you.
It is the responsibility of leaders to drive an enterprise that will survive and prosper, that will provide fulfilling careers and sustainable incomes, and a strong future for all. Being liked can be a by-product, but it is not a goal, and can’t be an important criteria for being a good leader.