Be The Leader They Like

Unlikable leaders are more effective – really?
Not everybody is going to like you – says who?
You can’t please God and man – who said that?
You can’t please everybody – so don’t try!

But can anyone actually explain the advantages of being disliked? If leadership is influence, then ‘unlikable’ is a tremendous handicap.

King David was a great leader, King Saul was a leadership fail. The resulting difference? People liked, (and loved), David while they ran from Saul.

Here’s David: Now all the people took note [of something David did], and it pleased them, since whatever the king did pleased all the people. II Samuel 3:36

Here’s Saul: “All of you have conspired against me… not one of you is sorry for me…” I Samuel 22:8 Ever notice how unlikable leaders expect loyalty while great leaders have earned it, how unlikable leaders are jealous while great leaders do things for free?

Three rhetorical questions Saul asks; “Why wasn’t I told about this?” “Why do you like David more than me?” “Why don’t you honor me?” – Suspicion, jealousy, and manipulation.

How to be likable
David’s son said, “Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart, And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man. Proverbs 3:3-4 Luke describes, “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Luke 2:52

Mercy, truth, wisdom, and stature directly increase your likability. Suspicion, jealousy, and manipulation make you difficult to follow.

Three steps to being likable:
1. submit our own thoughts and feelings to the David/Saul test
2. invest time and focus on building mercy, truth, wisdom & stature
3. exercise mercy, truth, wisdom and stature right now

Unlikable leaders seem unaware – we need help with this. How can you tell if those you lead like you?

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7 responses to “Be The Leader They Like

  1. Good post Pastor Al.
    I was listening to a preacher talking about leadership once and he described an incident which happened early in his church plant. He walked into the office and his team all simultaneously stopped talking and shuffled off out of the room. He said that was a huge wake up call for him. They were all scared of him. He was acting like a tyrant instead of a king. He was forcing them to be how he wanted them to be, to be loyal to him, and all for his own benefit.

    I think the foundation to not be a leader like that is to always remember that my approval comes from Jesus. Once I understand that I am totally accepted in His sight then I am free to lead without using fear and manipulation to create a false loyalty. I can give freely of myself and not worry about losing my position or authority.

    ‘Twixt kings and tyrants there’s this difference known:
    Kings seek their subjects’ good, tyrants their own.
    ~Robert Herrick

  2. Saul’s greatness potential is the biggest stinger to his epic failure. The idea that he would have sat on the throne forever is an astounding thought… but chalk one up to a sick heart.

  3. I think people have the wrong concept of what it means to try to be likable. Many have swung to the far end of the pendulum in saying that to be likable that means you bend over backwards to please everybody and never have anyone mad at you ever. Yet that’s not the case. Even likable leaders will have people get upset with them sooner or later. And yet this is not an excuse to swing to that other side of the pendulum and assume it gives a person free range to be cruel to get their way in the guise of “demanding respect” and that since you “can’t please everyone” they shouldn’t even bother trying.

    Jesus didn’t keep everybody happy all the time, but that wasn’t because he went around attacking people or was flaunting his authority. A good leader pushes you, and sometimes being pushed isn’t comfortable. But being the great leader Jesus is He also knew how to push the right way. His actions were out of love and crazily enough He even showed respect to His followers! Why would God show respect to others? He could just have easily looked at them, said “you’re dumb” and moved on. But that’s the response that tyrant would give, not a loved, respected, and greatly liked leader.

    I completely agree with how you list the importance of practicing mercy, wisdom, truth, and stature. Without these components you’ll not only make a poor leader but you’ll make a poor Christian!

    • Right on Tiffany. Love your comment. I’m just getting onto this blogging stuff. Great Leaders make Great Followers too. We all have someone over us to report to. Even Jesus communicated and took instruction from His Father for He said in John 17:8 NIV ” I gave them the words you gave me. And they accepted them. They knew for certain that I came from you. They believed that you sent me.”

    • Well said Tiffany Grant. We serve the will of the Father not the wills of well meaning men. A little competition can sometimes bring out the truth of the heart. The greatest leaders are servants who lead by example, God’s example.

  4. Unlikable leaders seem unaware – we need help with this.
    HOW CAN YOU TELL IF THOSE YOU LEAD LIKE YOU?
    It’s all about relationship. Without God’s love relationships, 1Cor. 13 we are nothing. I see Jesus in the Gospels approachable, teaching the Word, leading by example, and being opened to questions. He was not just a, “Do it because I say so”, kind of leader but a great communicator and relational person. As leaders we MUST see that God’s precious people are not mere commodities and resources to be commanded at will. Followers must feel loved, valued, and believe that their leaders care and have their best interest/welfare at heart. Without question if you are this kind of leader you’ll be so liked/loved. Jesus is our best example of a leader who won the hearts and love of his followers. They knew He loved, cared, valued and even saw them as precious because He laid down His life for them. Wanting be liked? Lay down your life for the brethren. Be a servant of all. Doesn’t the Word say we are to do this? Believe me I’m exhorting myself also right now. Thanks Dr. Al for stirring these thought provoking questions otherwise we’d all just cruise along in life unaware if if we’re self absorbed like Saul or have a servant’s heart like David.

  5. People who follow leaders they don’t like tend to have their potential capped. They become unable to become what God intended them to be. Instead they walk in a level of fear and intimidation. It’s not respect, and it’s not honor. There is no way you can effectively lead when you’re not liked. I believe it’s a manipulated position of leadership. I would much prefer to follow an individual that I like, respect and share a vision and heart with. I could not entrust myself to someone who did not have my best interest at heart, as well as the interest of others. As Christian leaders, we may not always be liked, but people should always know that our desire is to do the will of the Father. In doing that, our hearts for God and others should be evident.

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