The question of whether or not it is important for you to be “liked” by your team is an interesting one. You will find that your answer may indicate more about your leadership style than you may think. Taking a look at your leadership style will ultimately answer this question.
In one of our manager meetings, I threw this question out to the 20 some leaders we had. I split them into 2 even groups, and gave each team their position that they would need to debate. One team needed to convince the other team that it either was or was not important to be liked as a leader. This was not only a lot of fun, but it also revealed a great deal about the real feelings that some of our managers had about this topic.
To take the position of “no”, it is not important to be liked, you could argue that you have “authority” over your team. Even if they do not like you, they will do what you ask of them. This takes us down the path of “positional authority”, or those that feel people should do things just because your badge says “manager”. My opinion is that this is a short term strategy, and eventually team members will undermine your authority in subtle but effective ways. You will begin to see your team’s performance decline and your turnover increase.. People do not like to be forced into doing anything as a general rule.
Now for the other side of the debate. Why would you be more effective as a leader if your team liked you? Well, let’s look at a few reasons. First, is your effort the same for your best friend as it is for a complete stranger? Do you have as much determination to make a stranger look good as you would your brother or sister? When we like our manager, we are motivated to make them look good.
Second, are you effective as a leader even when you are not present? Does your team work at the same pace and intensity when you are on vacation as when you are in the office. Your goal is to develop a team that works on auto-pilot. Your presence is not required in order for things to get done. When you have a great deal of respect for your manager, you continue to focus on the same things when she is away, as you do when she is present. Leading through fear and intimidation only produces results when you are present.
So how can you determine your leadership style? Well, the best way is to look at your activities. Actions speak louder than words. Either list your activities for a given day, or check out a page of your “to-do” list. Add up all the items that are “tasks”, not requiring people to be involved, in order to accomplish. Things like reports, emails, etc. Then add the items together that do require people, such as meetings and one on one’s. I always suggest that leaders always choose “people” over “process”. I know on some days you will have to spend more time with tasks, but over an extended period of time it should be people.
So my very strong opinion is that we should work on gaining the trust and respect of our team members and peers. Your job becomes much easier and you are more effective when people are willing to go the extra distance “for you”.