In “Remember the Titans,” Coach Boone (Denzel Washington) tells his players during an acrimonious period “You don’t have to like each other, but you do have to respect each other.” Given the dissension in the newly-integrated team, the demand seemed appropriate. However, this seems like a fairly soft requirement in most circumstances. While respecting others is admirable, it is a low bar. It should be an unspoken expectation and core value.
The most effective leaders (bosses) are respected AND liked. Think of the leaders that you have respected the most. You probably also liked them because they were interested in you and cared about you as a person. Your employees have a good sense of whether they are liked. That perception, fair or not, influences their feelings toward and commitment to what you are trying to accomplish. Showing employees that you respect AND like them is an uncommon approach, and therefore a great opportunity to differentiate your leadership style.
I sense that many will be rolling their eyes as they read this and think of employees who are a challenge to like, on their best days. Effective leaders look for and focus on employee positives and demonstrate empathy toward employees as they help them grow. Employees who do not respond to this approach are required to leave. The most effective leaders achieve unique status because of their willingness to take on tough challenges. Few challenges test us more than the challenge to demonstrate to all employees that we genuinely like them as human beings. The best-of-the-best leaders demonstrate compassion, commitment, and discipline in meeting the challenge.