Popularity is Not In Your Job Description

By Rebel Brown

Popularity does not make for great leadership.

In fact, popularity seeking leaders are notorious for not making the tough calls. The very calls that every business needs to be successful.

Great Leaders Don’t Seek Popularity

Great leaders attract respect. Being popular is not the same as being respected.

When leaders focus on being liked, that need for popularity gets in the way of the business. Some cases in point from my clients:

  • This company was in trouble. The new product didn’t work as expected, sales was giving away more and more profit margin to get deals that were not in the company’s sweet spot. In fact – the sales executive publicly fudged the margins to make them look more attractive. Everyone in the company knew that the deals were not in line with what was expected. Yet the CEO refused to call the sales executive into question. They were friends. Many of the sales team were friends.  The CEO didn’t want to rock the boat with his buddies. He chose their friendship over the business, and everyone knew it.
  • This leader was beloved for his kindness and understanding. When the product team missed the delivery date by months, he took it in stride. He explained  that development was more art than science. Things happen, right?  Especially when you’ve been a developer and the development leads have worked for you through three companies. That explanation didn’t help the sales and customer support folks who had to deal with an angry customer and prospect base. Nor did it help with the financials that tanked and cost the company it’s next funding.
  • He was the nicest guy I’d ever worked for. When his executive team decided to block me from doing the strategy work I’d been hired to do, he didn’t react. He couldn’t upset his team. They liked him.  So he told me to go around them, hire my own people and do the job regardless of what they wanted. Want to know how well that worked out?

We’ve all seen leaders who take niceness and friendship to the extreme. Aside from not making the tough calls, they promote lousy managers because they are nice gals, or guys. They refuse to fire the people who aren’t doing their jobs because “they’ve been with the company forever.” Worst of all?  They think they’re doing the right things.

They make personal rather than profound decisions. With every employee watching.

Stop Fooling Yourself

I’m not saying that you have to be an ass to be a great leader. That’s the other extreme.

If you want to be a successful leader that is respected; be fair, make the tough decisions and be transparent about how you do just that.

Every employee is watching you. If you think they don’t know that Ken is your buddy or Jen is slacking… think again. Every employee in your company knows when you make a bad decision. They know way more than you think they do.

They also know when you’re choosing the easy decision over  the tough ones. They pay attention to the business. It keeps them employed, gives them a home and puts food on the tables for their families. That’s their priority. Running the business to deliver their paycheck is yours.

When you make a decision that reeks in popularity and favoritism, you lose the respect of your people.

Once you lose their respect, you’ve lost the right to call yourself a leader.

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NEXT STEPS

Peak Performance

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About the Author

I create strategies for go to market, leadership, sales and marketing that help you reach peak performance. For over 25 years, I've worked with investors, board members and executives to fuel bottom line profitability. I also coach individuals and teams to achieve peak performance through the powerful applications of modern psychology. With over 300 clients in my portfolio, I bring a depth and breadth of expertise that my clients say is rare... and powerful. How can I help you achieve peak performance?