If you have a great need to be liked, you can’t be a great leader


“Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.” —Peter Drucker

Disclaimer:  So I’m not a Drucker-junkie as such as many has blogged on and taught on ad nausea in conference rooms, seminars, workshops and team meetings around the world.  However, he is really smart and often spot-on as he is here in this quote and I’m really just preaching to myself.  (Humor me if you can identify with it)

If you are a leader and have a great need to be liked, you can’t be a great leader.  I mean, we all want to be liked, that’s part of being human, it’s our preference.  Facebook clearly knew what they were doing by building a global social media empire based on the foundational idea that we want to control others’ perception of us and ultimately be ‘liked’.  But if you are insecure within yourself as a leader and have a great primary need to be liked?  You are a train wreck waiting to happen and are placing a millstone around the neck of your followers.  It’s a heavy load.

The constant need to be ‘liked’ breeds insecurity and chaos within an organization because the target is always shifting.  By the very nature of growing an organization; competition and changing markets are hard to keep up with and carry a heavy load of pressures and challenges.  If you add to this the manic need for the leader to be ‘liked’, then that’s an awful lot for any organization to overcome.  The aim should be towards market results and organizational mission, bringing others along for the ride for the achieving of specific measures.  If the organization has to exist for the leader to feel good about himself/herself, then it becomes the ship in the sea with no anchor, torn and tossed by the winds and waves.  If you have a great need to be liked, you can’t be a great leader.

Great leaders need to find their self-actualization of personal identity elsewhere, outside of their mission and job to lead others.  We are whole people and can never do this completely, but our rooting of personal significance cannot be primarily embedded in how others feel about us; particularly those who work with and for us.  This primary need of significance comes not in work, but in family blessing, community, faith, philosophy, worldview, self-discovery and reflective personal experience.

What we need is to die to our need to be ‘liked’ as a leader.  We cannot hang that insecure millstone around the neck of those following us.  It’s not theirs to carry.  We are to find and root that personal identity elsewhere and thus exist to add to the significance of our followers by providing for them consistent care and empowerment.  They don’t exist for us, we exist for them.  Great leaders don’t acquire power, they displace it towards others.

It is not until we die to this need to be ‘liked’ by our followers that we are finally free to lead them. 

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