Betty-Ann's Both Sides Blog

Competency and Likeability Create Leadership Magnets

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There are magnetic people in every company. Others are attracted to them, want to work with them and naturally follow them. These leaders know it’s not enough to have skills and be competent; it is equally important (and maybe more so) to be likeable and form relationships. When these characteristics are delivered together, both are enhanced—you become a magnet.

I first recognized this years ago when conducting a research project for a university class on social networks. It was fascinating to see the way everyone wanted to work with a select few individuals. When I looked more closely at the attributes of these magnetic people, I found they were not only competent, they were cooperative, encouraging and validating. Workmates benefited from their expertise, yet found being in their presence pleasant and amiable.

Later, when working in sales at Xerox and surveying customers on their product satisfaction, I discovered more information to further develop my thesis. While ‎we strove to deliver good quality copies to all our customers, there were differences in how those copies were perceived. Customers would not only accept substandard copies if they liked their repairperson, they would rate their copies as excellent! Conversely, even top-notch copies would be rated below average if our customers didn’t like the person who was responsible for fixing their machine. Both situations drove home how an appealing personality can positively influence people’s evaluation of your work.

Decorated hockey coach Mike Babcock, currently with the NHL Toronto Maple Leafs, says enthusiastic, likeable players are integral to the success of any team. He calls these energizers ‘spark plugs’. ‎Competency is a given to make the roster, but most important are magnets who draw others in, solidifying a group of individuals into a team.

A Harvard Business Review ‎article, “Competent Jerks, Lovable Fools and the Formation of Social Networks” by Tiziana Casciaro and Miguel Sousa Lobo reiterates my anecdotal experience. It says that when choosing who we work with we ask, “Does Joe know what he’s doing?” and “Is Joe enjoyable to work with?” Their research shows that both things matter, but “If someone is liked, colleagues will seek out every little bit of competence he has to offer”.  Additionally, if someone is strongly disliked, people don’t want to work with him or her; their competency is irrelevant.

So how can we be sure we demonstrate both competence and the equally (if not more) important likeability to become a leadership magnet?  Develop your masculine and feminine energy. Those deemed to be competent and dependable display masculine energy attributes such as analysis, taking action and focusing on results. Everyone wants to work with, or for, someone who brings a project in on time and on budget, especially when that proficient person is also personally appealing.

Appealing individuals display attributes such as collaboration, consensus building, listening, empathizing and caring for others. These are all indicative of accessing feminine ‎energy. Sprinkling a healthy dose of these characteristics over those you interact with will make you more likeable. Everyone is aware of their own imperfections, and if you can make others feel safe about revealing their vulnerabilities, they will perform better for you and up to their highest potential.

Whether you are a man or a woman, you have both masculine and feminine energy in you. Your job is to coax these energies out, embrace them and express yourself through them. Both men and women are prone to turn their back on feminine energy in an attempt to get the job done in our production-oriented work environments. We’ve been socialized to believe that it is all about proficiency, but as we’ve seen, the results of competent individuals, who are not considered likeable, can be viewed as subpar.

It is well worth it to take time to ask others how they are doing and really listen to the answers. Rather than passing others over in a group to reach resolution on a decision, pull ideas out of those quiet ones. This improves brainstorming, which will pay dividends through a wider range of ideas. Additionally, these feminine energy actions will leave people feeling that you are more genial.

Nobody wants to follow a likeable leader who can’t deliver results, and nobody wants to follow a repulsive, but competent, leader either. Remember that both attributes are teamed together. Take time to display both masculine and feminine energy, paying special attention to using feminine energy to guide your interactions. That will increase your likeability and you’ll become a leadership magnet.

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