The Sixth Deadly Sin of Leadership: Winning the Popularity Contest

Has winning the popularity contest ever comprised your ability to lead? All of us have a need to be liked. This is what makes us human and connects us to others. However, sometimes your need to be liked interferes with your need to be the leader.

This is particularly true when you have been promoted from a group of your peers to the leader of the group. You enjoyed good relationships with your colleagues and you want that to continue as the leader. You are concerned about “hurting anyone’s feelings” or using your power to get results.

There can be a wave of resistance from former colleagues. Some of them may have interviewed for the job that you got and are wondering why you got it and they didn’t. Although they tell you they are happy for you, they take a wait and see approach to their work. This presents an even bigger dilemma as you had excellent relationships until you became the boss.

As the leader you have to make strategic business decisions which may not be very popular. There is information you will be unable to share with your staff. Your focus has changed from delivering the work to delivering the results.

I worked with a leader who was beloved by his staff. He listened to all their personal stories and gave everyone the benefit of the doubt when projects were late. However, his boss and peers thought he was too much a friend and not enough of a leader. He always responded by saying he did not want to seem too harsh or demanding. When an opportunity for promotion came along, his boss thought he was not ready and did not recommend him.

Remember these things;

  • Empathize with your staff, but not do their work
  • Be a good listener
  • Delegate work and follow-up
  • Hold people accountable
  • Be transparent with your intention
  • Do not take it personally if your staff is not happy with all your decisions

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