Let's take a moment to talk about leadership. I don't know about any of you, but I've read a nauseatingly large number of management books that all talk about the need to be a "people person". To summarize most of the advice I've received: "My success is tied to both the number and quality of relationships that I possess. Being a relentless networker who can charm people with dazzling charisma is the way to get things done." I've even been told by a CEO that I greatly admire that there are three factors that make up every successful leader. He called them CCL, or Capability, Credibility, and Likability.
I am not here to argue about the need to be well in tune with people. That fact should be axiomatic to most of us, but it does not represent the whole truth. Not by far! In thinking about my own experiences, I've always seemed to work better under leaders (and sports coaches) who challenge my self-imposed status quo. I fondly remember reporting to bosses who were very friendly and complimentary of my work (no matter the quality) but those people never seemed to get the best out of me.
But enough about me. We need to look beyond individuals at more broad situations. Along those lines, comparison examples are always helpful - let's look at a few. Keep in mind that I live in the United States but that a significant number of my readers do not. So when I talk about politics, please think about the ones pertinent to you and your location.
Let's begin by first examining the approval rating for the current president of the United States, Barack Obama. By all accounts President Obama, "the leader of the free world", is a wildly successful politician and leader. He easily won both of his presidential elections and has been more effective in advancing his legislative agenda than almost any president in recent history. Given all of this popularity we need examine some numbers shown in this chart:
For all of his success as president, Obama's approval rating has an average of about 45%. One way to interpret this number is to say that out of every 100 people, 55% of the individuals in that group do NOT like what President Obama is doing or has done. That's more than half! How can someone win two terms to the highest, most powerful job in the world when so many people are disapproving?
Things get much worse if you take a look at the United States Congress. According to polls late last year, Congress as a whole had an 11% approval rating and an 86% disapproval mark with the nation's population. No matter how you look at those numbers they are really quite terrible. Yet, the same faces seem to be in Washington year after year. So is being disliked a bad thing?
Scurrying away from politics we can now take a look at business leaders. Steve Jobs was one of the greatest corporate leaders of the past century. He did so many momentous things that within five years of his death, there were two major Hollywood movies made about him. Yet, at the same time, Jobs was absolutely hated and despised by friends, family, business partners, and associates.
Elon Musk is a name that most of us will recognize. Sure, there's the Tesla Auto company that he's most associated with to the public. However, he is also responsible for some other spectacular ventures as well. Ever heard of SpaceX, Solar City, or the Hyperloop? Yet again we have an example of a leader who has been wildly effective and successful, yet remains an individual that very few people view as being likable.
In his book, "The Five Temptations of a CEO", author Patrick Lencioni explicitly says that no leader can be successful and seek acceptance at the same time. The hard truth about being a leader worth following is that hard decisions must be made and firm stances taken. Whenever either of these things is done, opposition will materialize and "hate" will develop. But there is simply no alternative if one wants to bring any value at all to the world.
Pause for a moment and take stock of your current situation. If, as a leader, you are doing things which cause others to polarize around you, it's highly likely you are either becoming a successful leader or probably have already reached that goal. If you find that no "hate" is being directed towards you, odds are that you haven't yet done anything.
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