How Likability Builds Relationships and Represents Leadership

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likability builds relationships

How Likability Builds Relationships and Represents Leadership

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Have you thought about how likability builds relationships?

Recently I was lost for words when a business associate asked me about the results of meeting I had with an executive they had provided as a referral. After stumbling and fumbling for a moment I said, “Let me just say that Emotional Intelligence training might be helpful.”

While I’m not in the habit of being critical of people, I definitely felt a little frustration during my conversation with the aspiring executive.

Normally it is the kind of discovery I want to have, because I can often help. However it is sometimes challenging when the person who writes the check is really the problem and they absolutely don’t see it that way.

Likability On Your Radar

I wouldn’t say that the gentleman was totally unlikable. I understand how he might think he is doing his job, but my guess is that much of the team is not very fond of him. He is the kind of leader that when asked about being likable, he would say, “I’m not here to win a popularity contest.”

The single most important message that I can share with any aspiring leader is that you need to care about being likable.

Certainly that doesn’t mean that every decision you make or direction you turn will be popular. It does mean that you need to have likability on your radar.

Likability Builds Relationships

Whether it is with your team or with vendors, customers, or other stakeholders here are a few things that will help improve your likability:

  1. Be Positive. Sometimes miserable people like to connect with other miserable people, but leaders need to be inspirational. Always maintain a positive outlook. Inspire faith in the process, share plans and actualize the vision. Light the path.
  2. Show Empathy. Demonstrating caring and concern helps connect people emotionally. It doesn’t mean choices are made from fear or sympathy, it does mean that people know you care and understand.
  3. Stay Humble. Arrogance really shows ignorance. Your position doesn’t mean you can push people around. It really means that you have to serve harder, care more, and understand people.
  4. Listen Well. Chances are good that the most likable relationships are built by those who talk less and listen more. Listening is a skill. It’s different from hearing sounds or voices. Listen to understand.
  5. Connect. Never try to shove your way around. Pushy and authoritarian isn’t a relationship, but it might be bullying. In the workplace your best people are connected to their work by purpose. Build bridges not towers.


When it comes to building relationships you become what you practice. Being likable is important for any relationship but don’t confuse likability with popularity.

In leadership roles adhering to your responsibilities might not always be the most popular, but they should always be respectful.

Respect is earned. Leadership is a skill. Likability builds relationships.


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a four-time author and some of his work includes, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce and Pivot and Accelerate, The Next Move Is Yours! Reach him through his website at or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

Dennis Gilbert on Google+

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