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When Leaders Aren’t Liked

When trying to lead, some appreciate it, some are ambivalent, and others give the evil eye.

What should leaders do when they feel disliked?

Here are three basic steps to follow when you feel the cold shoulder:

  1. Mirror honesty: The first step must always be to look in the mirror. Is there a valid reason for the evil eye and sidelong glances? Are there behaviors that need to be changed? What could have gone differently? An authentic leader is always “stirring the ashes” after a situation or event to see what they could learn, what they felt uncomfortable with, and what needs to change for greater success moving forward. Part of this internalized review process is to look at your internal drivers - your personal convictions and values.

  2. Values check: Ensure you are comfortable with your personal values set and that they align with how you desire to operate. The negative opinions of others can be a helpful gauge to know when to check yourself, but not a sole reason to derail your course of action. Sometimes being disliked is an indication you stood up for the right in the face of opposition. The only and best reason to change leadership style and/or direction is if you have not been true to your core values, or if you learn that your core values need adjustment. This can be difficult to see on your own - an honest and kind mentor can give key insights when reviewing deeply help beliefs and moral perspectives.

  3. Move the needle: Identify what needs to change and work toward it. Be open about poor decisions or behaviors, and don’t be afraid to ask for forgiveness. This is often where leaders find themselves stuck - the idea sounds great, but how do you actually do it? Try the following: (a) be vulnerable and give your employees, colleagues, and supervisor(s) the opportunity to give you an anonymous 360 degree survey - there are many free tools out there, but you may have to give up your email address to access it, (b) set up recurrent and short (20-30 minute) one-on-one walking meetings with all of your employees (and maybe some colleagues) to get to know them and to ask for their opinion about leadership actions (it’s amazing what comes from these meetings over time), and (c) create a communication pathway with colleagues and those with whom you regularly interact, such as a newsletter or email blog that outlines changes and improvements while also allowing for feedback or responses.

If after all this you still receive the evil eye, feel confident and move forward with humility. If you are true to your internal values you are on the right track.

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