I don’t like that man…

Abraham Lincoln from Vectorportal

Abraham Lincoln
Courtesy Vectorportal

It was the very topical Abraham Lincoln, 16th US President (1861-65), who is reputed to have said “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” So must you like those you work with or those who work for you? Well, you can’t like everyone, but the real issue is whether disliking someone inhibits or affects you as a leader.

The answer is probably ‘yes’. Disliking someone is usually hard to hide and will make it difficult to behave rationally towards them. Disliking most likely means that they offend you in some way, and maybe even threaten you, and they they are certainly unlikely to share your values. Trust, communication and the ability to take them seriously then become more difficult. And it’s hard to lead if you can’t do these.

Given that we are usually stuck with the majority of our work colleagues, Abe Lincoln’s homily points to a different response – a search for something that can be respected in a person.

I’ve had colleagues and staff that I have loathed, and consequently made the mistake of excluding them from the areas I ran. Eventually, I realised that I needed them, and what I needed was the thing they were good at. I still wouldn’t trust them with my wife, but I would trust them to deliver in their area of competence. And so long as I focussed on that, we could work together well enough. Should leaders be honest and make their true feelings know about other people? Your choice, but it demonstrates the balance leadership requires between being true to all your values and doing what’s best for the organisation as a whole.

So who do you need to know more about?

Finding a positive quality or aspect of a person won’t make you like then, but it may well help you work better with them.



  1. Charles Oldham · · Reply

    I think the opposite can work against you as a leader too. An expectation that you will be liked and vice versa is plainly unrealistic, as a leader. Striving to be so is even worse – you become the plaything of the emotions of others. You do need mutual respect with your team and they need to understand and add to the team dynamic. If they will not play along then dislike may be a consequence and action needs to be taken – for the right reasons! When dislike morphs into antagonism is when the problems really start.

    1. Gosh yes – antagonism is certainly an inhibitor to the provision of leadership!

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