Why are some managers more effective than others? In the last few decades there has been a substantial amount of research that has verified the specific behaviors that can increase management effectiveness. One of the most surprising research findings was that great managers are liked by those they manage.
The following are four reasons why management likeability is essential.
1. Leadership is relational. Liking someone entails that you enjoy being in a relationship with that person. When people dislike their manager they will not respond positively to him or her. Their focus is on getting away from their manager, not on productively collaborating together to work towards a common goal. In addition, people always work harder for a manager they like than one they do not.
2. Management likeability speaks to the quintessence of what management is: getting things done through other people. For example, the Harvard Business Review published the results of a study that analyzed the traits of 51,836 leaders. The study concluded that only a meager 27 of the leaders were rated in both the bottom quartile for likability and the top quartile for overall leadership effectiveness. This means that the probability of a manager being strongly disliked and still being a productive leader is about 1 in 2,000.
3. A manager’s likeability has been shown to affect subordinates loyalty. Top performers will not want to work for a manager that they do not like being around. This is especially problematic because elite performers always have a plethora of employment options and it is the manager who, more than any other factor determines whether a person will remain loyal to an organization or attempt to flee from it.
A survey of 2,000,000 employees at over 700 American companies found that the #1 factor that determined the length of time an employee chose to remain at an organization was the employee’s relationship with his or her manager.
4. Managers who are liked inspire those around them to perform at peak levels. These leaders are known for getting the best out of those who work for them. A report published by the global management firm Bain & Company identified that good relations between an employee and his or her manager can increase effectiveness, while poor relations can hinder employee performance by a staggering 25% - 50%.
A prime example of this occurred when the US Navy conducted extensive research on what made some of their leaders more effective than others. Researchers studied the traits of the naval leaders who led the highest rated squadrons and those leaders who commanded under-performing squadrons. In the analysis of both groups, the difference in leadership styles became apparent. The leaders of the top-performing squadrons created a positive emotional tone. Though they were decisive, action oriented leaders they also were likable. Those who served under these leaders described them as: sociable, democratic, gentle, appreciative, trustworthy, and even fun.
In contrast, the naval leaders who led the under-performing squadrons had chosen to embrace the, “I don’t care if you like me, just respect me” mentality. These leaders were described as: harsh, demanding, egocentric. This dislike for their leader hindered the effectiveness of the squadron, ultimately rendering these leaders inadequate. The conclusions of the research demonstrated that even in the US Navy’s spirited culture, a leader’s likeability matters. In fact, it matters a great deal.
The evidence overwhelmingly confirms that when people look favorably on their manager their performance is enhanced. They work harder, are more creative and have increased productivity in comparison to those sales people who work for a manager they dislike. When a manager is not liked it is a red flag because it usually means that the manager’s behavior is demotivating his or her staff. In other words, the disliked manager is not an effective leader and is simply bad for business. So should managers be liked? The answer is a resounding yes.
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