Should we “BE” or “LOOK” Likeable?


I am the tall one on the right.

I am the tall one on the right.

I recall the first time I discovered it was important to be likeable.  It happened when I realized just how unlikeable I was to my two younger sisters.  I was probably 10 or so years old and my mother had assigned me several household chores required to be completed to perfection.

My sisters arrived home from school and proceeded to mess up all the chore work I had completed.  So began a pattern of complaining to, yelling at and telling on them.  As some time went by, one of my sisters said to me, “why would we even help you Cindy…we don’t even like you!”

The point?   Leaders need people to like them.  People are not lead or influenced or trusted by people who are not likable.  A recent Wall Street Journal article highlighted how likeability is even more challenging on video, social media, Skype and email.  These are typically the default methods of communication in the workplace today.

So, the ability to come across as likeable, in person or over technology, shapes how people are sized up and treated by bosses and co-workers, according to Tim Sanders author of The Likeability Factor.

Follow these steps to LOOK likeable:

  1. Make eye contact with your people when communicating
  2. Smile naturally when speaking and if appropriate
  3. Vary your tone of voice to convey warmth and enthusiasm
  4. Listen deeply and figure out what is important to your people

Follow these steps to BE likeable:

  1. Determine who you want to be as leader:  your values and what’s important to you
  2. Decide what you believe about how you want to lead
  3. Communicate your leadership point of view and how you will engage and support your people
  4. Ask for feedback about how you are doing for them, as their leader

Your Thoughts?






Which side are you on?  LOOK or BE?

Can we integrate both points of view?  What are the possibilities for creating an authentic, real, empathic leader, who is likeable too?

A word of caution:  Your people will detect inauthentic and manipulative practices to appear or look likeable.  My sisters caught me on this one, too.

2 Responses to Should we “BE” or “LOOK” Likeable?
  1. Tiffany Lynn Lepp
    April 7, 2014 | 8:21 pm


    I’ve read a statistic that says 10% of people don’t like you.

    I don’t know how accurate that is, but it’s actually helped me become more comfortable in my skin.

    Knowing that some people will not like me because of my clothes, or my laugh or whatever has actually allowed me to just be me.

    From a leadership perspective, is this kind of approach effective?

    • Cindy Charlton
      April 7, 2014 | 9:34 pm

      Hi Tiffany and thanks for your question and comments!

      Leaders who are comfortable in their own skin, comfortable with who they are and how they lead their teams and their work will likely deeply understand that not everyone will be pleased with EVERYTHING they do or say.

      These leaders will, on the other hand, encourage open dialog and discussion around what is not pleasing or helpful or authentic to their people. This type of leader will support diversity of thought, action and being as a way to achieve sustainable results.

      These leaders will not expect to be likable, but will strive to become likable, authentic and performance focused all at the same time. Being who you are rather than who you think you are supposed to be keeps you on the leadership path of credibility, sustainability, and likeability.

      Keep up your approach!


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