Are You Liked, Respected or Really Useful?

Are You Liked, Respected or Really Useful?

There’s a conversation that typically happens at some point in leadership training for military officers about whether it’s better to be liked or respected as a leader. That is, do you want your people to enjoy your presence and to feel some sort of emotional attachment to you? Or do you want them to hold you in high regard for your abilities and behavior? 

It’s a good conversation because it highlights a natural tension that exists when you’re in charge of people. On one hand, being liked is a source of power in and of itself. People don’t like working for jerks. On the other hand, being in a supervisory position often requires one to make hard decisions that may not sit well with some people, and if your goal is to make your people like you, it could affect your judgment and behavior negatively. 

There’s no right answer, although sometimes I’ve noticed (at least in my own life in how I understood things and acted as a young leader) that in the military the “liked” versus “respected” distinction is treated too frequently as a strict dichotomy. It’s either one or the other. 

In reality, though, I see this as an “and” proposition. It’s possible—even, dare I say, ideal—to be both. 

But the bigger problem is

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