Want to Become a More Likable Leader? Listen Up.

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Everyone wants to be liked. But for a leader of a business, does being liked really matter? In short, yes it does. Because being liked can help leaders influence people, and influence is the core currency of a good leader. When people like and respect their leaders, they are more likely to trust them, follow their lead, and be influenced by their ideas and decisions. Being liked creates a positive emotional connection between the leader and the team, which can lead to a greater sense of loyalty and commitment. Of course, being liked alone is not enough to be an effective leader. Leaders must also demonstrate the skills, knowledge, and experience necessary to make informed decisions and communicate their vision effectively. But being liked certainly helps. In fact, a recent article in INC magazine suggests that research supports that “likability” actually drives success, since likable leaders are often more effective. But how does one become likable?

As a family business consultant, my goal in working with clients in their leadership roles is to encourage them to be open to new ideas and to guide them to engage in behaviors that will increase their ability to positively influence others. That positive influence can largely be driven by the leader’s likability. But people aren’t “born” likable. Individual behavior dictates whether people like you or not, which can be difficult for leaders, who are in a high-stress position trying to run a business and tell others what to do. You can, however, learn the skills needed to become a likable leader—and it starts with listening.

When you learn to listen instead of talk, it shows that you are interested in and value the opinions, thoughts, and feelings of others. When you take the time to listen to someone, you make them feel heard and validated, which can create a sense of connection and trust. Leaders who demonstrate good listening skills are also more likely to understand the needs and perspectives of others, which can help them build stronger relationships and navigate difficult situations more effectively. They are also better able to identify opportunities to offer support, guidance, or solutions to problems. Perhaps most importantly, being a good listener demonstrates empathy, which is an important trait of likable people. When you show empathy, you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand how they feel, which can help you respond in a more thoughtful and compassionate way.

So how does one become a good listener? The INC article I mentioned above highlights the “2-Question Protocol,” which posits that people should ask an open-ended question (where did you grow up?) and follow up with another open-ended question (what did you like about growing up there?). This allows the person whom you are asking to become comfortable talking about themselves—which people love to do. According to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, approximately 40 percent of what we say involves telling other people about our subjective experiences. People love to open up, and when they do, they will instantly feel a connection with you. But this conversational style doesn’t come easy to people, especially those with a tendency towards being introverted.

Becoming a “Conscious Listener”

Conscious Listening happens when the listener is aware of what’s occurring in the moment for themselves and with the person they’re listening to, without any alternate motives. To become a conscious listener, leaders must create a listening strategy. Here are some examples that I share with my clients:

  • When asking questions, make sure they are open-ended. This will give your team the chance to communicate their true thoughts.
  • Always ask two follow up questions, like “Can you tell me more?” or “Why do you feel that way?”
  • Practice Strategic Reflection—summarizing and sharing back with people what you heard them say. This way your team will know that you heard and understood them.
  • Get comfortable with silence, and don’t always assume silence is negative.
  • Invite and suggest, but don’t coerce

Listening leads directly to likability. People who talk less about themselves and show more interest in what the other person has to say, are the kind of people that employees will follow. In essence, if you learn how to listen, you will become a likable, and therefore more successful leader.

Are you ready to improve your leadership style? Schedule a consultation with us today and take your business to the next level.

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