Success and Likability
Randy Wolken, President & CEO

Likability matters more than almost any other trait in a leader. It’s not that the other parts of a competent leader are not important. They are. But, if a leader is not likable there is a good chance that the rest of the leadership package will go unnoticed or unappreciated. I have seen it so often to be the case.

Be likable if you want to be effective. And, being likable is much like most things worth doing – it takes real effort and intention. It does not just happen. Also, it cannot be faked or manufactured. As human beings, we must know the difference. We are finely tuned to notice how we feel around others.

Why is this so important? With creative talent being the most important characteristic of thriving organizations today – we must have organizations of likable leaders and individuals. People want to work in places that help them be happier and more successful. So, what can you do about it?

Likability is a set of behaviors we must demonstrate. These behaviors include being positive, listening, and focusing on the other person. Taken together these three attributes create an environment where we become liked and likable. Although it sounds simple, we all know it is not.

Positivity is contagious. If we stay positive and communicate positive thoughts and ideas, it catches on. It spreads like wildfire. Positive interactions are needed in an overwhelming way. A ratio of 3 to 1 is usually best so that the culture is saturated with it. It seems the brain is attracted to the negative and focuses on it. Keeping negative interactions to a minimum is critical. As a leader, we need to foster positive interactions profusely throughout our day. This takes real effort. It is hard work. It starts with our own focus on creating as many positive thoughts and actions as we possibly can. Keeping score on a periodic base will help us assess how we are doing.

Listening is the hardest attribute for most leaders. I know it is for me. I really have to work at not saying anything. I try to set a rule of listening twice as much as I talk. It is difficult to do! I have all of these thoughts and ideas in my head. However, if I say them – as a leader – I can stifle the creativity and interaction of others. I always try to remember what my mother would tell me. She said, “Randy, there is a reason God gave us two ears and only one mouth.” She is such a good role model for me. She always listens at least twice as much as she talks. Great leaders are first and foremost great listeners.

Finally, we must focus on the other person. If we are positive and listen, we are most of the way there. Ask questions. Let others talk. Listen to learn. Give positive feedback through body language – and few words. When we focus on the other person, we build strong relationships. We fill the bank with positive emotions. Focusing on others is what every one of us can do much better. It builds trust and opportunity.

Likability is the most underestimated quality in leaders and outstanding performers. However, it is foundational to success. What ways can you build your likability? How could you be more positive, listen much more, and focus on others? What would it look like today if you did more of it? Who needs your help in building this vital skill? One of the greatest gifts you can give is to be likable. Our homes, places of work, and communities so desperately need it today.