How to be liked and respected as a leader

· 4 min read
How to be liked and respected as a leader

One of the most common questions people who just stepped into a manager’s role have is how do they know that team likes them. It’s usually not only about the other people liking you but also a sense of being respected and listened to. Here are few sings that will help you see where you stand.

Signs that team doesn't like or respect you

  1. Professional talk. Do other people talk down to you? That’s a sure sign of disrespect that is hard to miss. It’s ok to have some friendly humor in conversations, but you should feel comfortable and respected.
  2. Small talk. When casual conversations are missing completely, that means that people don’t trust you enough to be open. You can see that in emails or during the meeting when people tell you only the information you requested and nothing more.
  3. Attention. Notice how others listen when you are talking. Do you have their full attention or they’re on to something else? Do they listen to what you have to say?
  4. Playing by the rules. It’s essential that your subordinates follow the rules that you set and the process you define. Their attitude towards the rules will tell you how much others respect you and how much authority you have over the team. After all, if they are not afraid of the consequences then why they would follow the rules.
  5. Sabotage. That’s one one of the most obvious signs, but we’re often telling ourselves that it can’t be true. There are many creative ways to undermine someone, one of the most common ones is to leave you out of the loop in hopes that you will be caught unaware and fail.

How to become liked and respected

Don’t worry though if you’ll notice that your team is not showing enough respect or don’t like you much. There are plenty of strategies to earn it and to make everyone like you. It’s quite common for the team to feel suspicious about the new or young manager. Just don’t expect results right away. You'll need to stay consistent in the way you behave and treat others, and only after weeks or months, you’ll start to notice a meaningful difference. Here are few tips on how to gain respect and be liked within the team.

  1. Show respect to others. Don’t push on someone who made a mistake but instead help them to understand why they made it and teach them how to avoid mistakes next time. Don’t scold them in front of the team but have private conversations instead. On the contrary, praise publicly those who succeed so that they are recognized and respected within the organization.
  2. Forgive the mistakes. You need to encourage experimentation and creativity within the team. That means that the environment should be safe for failure. Show your team how to assess the risk and take it when appropriate, bouncing back after a failure.
  3. Be consistent. If you made a decision, you need to stick to it. Avoid making misinformed decisions only to revert them shortly afterward. Pay attention to what you say. It’s better to wait a bit before commenting on something than trying to talk as much as possible. Don’t be a hypocrite and make sure that you keep the same point of view when talking to different people.
  4. Arrive on time. It can be hard for a manager but is essential to building trust. Nothing makes you lose respect faster than being made to wait for someone. Being later to meetings or even missing them completely shows total disrespect to others as time is the most valuable asset for everyone. Manage your time — set timers and calendar alerts. Try to come to meeting 15 minutes before it starts and finish your work in the meeting room if you know that you’re always late.
  5. Hold one-on-ones. Talking to someone eye to eye is a powerful tool to get to know the person and build trust. Many employees hate one-on-one meetings, and it’s your job as a manager to turn them into a tool for your team members to discuss pressing issues, brilliant ideas, and constant frustrations, as Ben Horowitz wrote in his post.
  6. Ask for feedback. There’s no better way to learn what you’re doing right or wrong than asking about it. Your subordinates will most likely share only positive feelings they have. Someone who is courageous enough will even tell you about the small area you might want to improve. To deal with that try to ask open-ended questions or questions about a specific project — e.g., "how do you think, what we could do better to deliver feature X on time?”.
  7. Give feedback. Giving feedback is one of the primary duties of the manager. Be careful though. Your feedback shouldn’t be all about what’s being wrong and what needs to be improved. Try to start with positive feedback first, use facts and examples when describing weak spots in their work and make sure to listen to what they have to say in return. The right type of feedback will resolve issues before they become a problem and help your team improve.

Liked vs. Respected

It’s essential for a manager and a leader to be both liked and respected. You’ll be able to get along with people on a personal level if they like you. The atmosphere in the team will be positive so that everyone enjoys their work. If you are also respected then the team will be disciplined, paying attention to detail and making the workplace more organized.

Remember though that respectfulness and likability is not something you can get at the same time. If you participate in a team building event and become more likable, you’ll also lose some respect. And if you enforce something and prove yourself right, that might earn you respect but will make you less liked.

So do you need to be liked or respected? You need to balance these two qualities as you need both. If nobody likes you, you’ll get a toxic workplace, with fear of intimidation and high employee turnover. If you’ll be too likable, you will lose value as a boss and will be perceived as a peer, and you will find your team regularly questioning your skills and arguing that your decisions are right.