How to be a Well-Liked and Highly-Respected Leader

how to be a well-liked and well-respected leader

In The Prince, Machiavelli ultimately surmised that as leader fear is more important to a leader’s success because being loved is out of one’s control.

And he’s right.

About leaders of a nation.

Leaders in which they can have face-to-face interactions with their teams have direct influence over their likability.

I’m going to explain why and give you a foolproof method for how to be a likable and well-respected leader.

How to become a Respected Leader

This is the foundation, the flour in which the cake is built. Similar to how high school teachers are stringent at the beginning of the year, then slowly relax as the year progresses, you have to set the tone that you are their boss first.

Everybody reading this has the capability of being respected. However, it is vital that you signal these characteristics through your actions and words. Take a page out of the fireman’s book.

Step 1: Be credible

Firemen are like bulletproof vests, they are tested in various situations and under extreme pressure. When the time comes, they are able to make snap decisions as to how they proceed.

You’re not getting tossed into a fire anytime soon, but demonstrate you know what you’re doing by making good decisions consistently. You have to be confident and self-aware enough to know when you have to defer to somebody’s expertise and when to go against the grain.

In the same vein, follow through with what you say. Your word is bond.

Step 2: Praise in Public, Criticize in Private and Vice Versa

You’ve all heard of the age old adage “praise in public, criticize in private.” And it makes sense to praise in private as well, people can’t get enough of it.

But what’s the reasoning behind criticizing in public?

In ancient China, public punishment was very popular among military leaders. Sometimes the leaders would knowingly throw an innocent man to be punished. But it had nothing to do with whether or not the man was guilty or not.

There was nothing but respect for the man beneath the sword, but it had to be done. Because public perception and the respect of the other soldiers was that much more important. The soldiers had to understand that there is no leniency in expectations, no give to push.

I’m not telling to criticize somebody for something they did not do, but make a point to hold your team accountable. Criticizing in public sets clear expectations and creates an environment where your team can competently manage itself.

Step 3: Be cool

In high pressure situations, firemen have to stay cool. Any irrational movements or decisions could be fatal. They risk their lives, you risk your reputation.

Control your emotions. Outside the office you can act however you want to. In the office, you’re the leader. You cannot seem fazed, ever.

You have to be able to have difficult conversations and face pressure while not letting your emotions affect you from making the best decisions. 

Step 4: Be firm

A respected leader is firm

Any half-step could be fatal in high pressure situations. A fireman has to have the utmost confidence in his abilities and decisions to carry out his duties effectively.

What does this mean for you? Stand behind all your decisions. Take time to think things through and use all the tools at your disposal to make the best judgement. If there are objections, simply reply “Your concern has been noted.” If you can’t be confident in your decisions, who will? 

The responsibility of the decision falls upon your shoulders as well.  You will get credit for success, but if mistakes were made, fall on the sword. Ultimately, it was your decision to make and your responsibility to manage. 

Then stand behind your expectations. Erase any confusion as to what is expected of them by dealing with infractions immediately. Employees will test the line, but the more you make it clear that your expectations are not be tampered with, the more they’ll defer to your boundaries.

Your mettle and character will be tested and your first instinct is to take the easy route, but there is no glory at the end of that tunnel. It only takes one slip for the tower to fall down and depending on what happened, it might be irreparable. Stay strong and eventually it will be like second nature.

If it sounds like all work and no play, it really is. If you stop at this step, it might be a daily struggle keeping yourself from doing something irrational. But it is completely necessary.

Some tools I use to keep my focus are meditation and exercise. Living in the present and leaving the past behind allows you to keep your sanity and make good decisions consistently.

How to be a Likable Leader

Clinton is a likable leader

If being respected is hard liquor, being likable is chase. Only comes after the hard stuff, but man, does it make it easier.

Team morale is always important, so you’re going to be like the Rock, the people’s champ.

Firemen show they’re for the people by saving people from fires, you’re going to show you’re for the people by saving people from being fired.


Step 1: Be a team player

Show that you are not above the team by participating in some of the dirty work. If there is work to be done and nobody else available. Lead by example. Your team will follow your actions with more vigor than your words.

Step 2: Trust your team

You’re the coach, you design the plays and the general strategy. However, once the ball is tipped, you have to trust your team to do what they’re paid to do.

On a similar note, welcome and accept expert advice when applicable.

Step 3: Admit when you’re wrong

Everybody makes mistakes. Own up to it and move past it. It’s not a big deal.

Step 4: Be cool

Similarly, when your team makes mistakes, show them you are able to move past it by demonstrating you understand it was a one-time mistake. By demonstrating mercy, employees actually perform better because they are grateful for another opportunity.

The greater the mistake, the greater the effect. However, this only works if they expect a proportional or an extreme response. Use your discrepancy, but show you are capable of both punishment and mercy.

Step 5: Show them you care

When I was a kid, I remember going down to the local fire station to pick out my Christmas presents and I’m probably going to remember that for the rest of my life.

Little things you can do to show your employees you care can really go a long way; whether that be remembering their birthday or showing leniency towards personal issues. They have to know there is a person behind the suit.

Step 6: Share the success

Behind every made man is talent, skill, and hours of hard work. But it’s never done alone. On every journey, there are people you meet that make it unique. Whenever that experience is brought up, you can’t help but think of those people.

Similarly, when you think of your success, remember the people that helped you achieve your goals. Thank them and make sure they get the recognition they deserve.

When the time is right, recommend them for promotions. Ultimately what you reward is what you will get. Reward talent and your team will strive to be the best.

Step 7: Don’t forget about the little guy

Not everybody on the team can be superstars, but they’re on the team for a reason. Figure out how they best contribute to the team and give them encouragement and praise as to the things they’re doing well. However, don’t compromise your values and expectations by praising their work when you wouldn’t praise someone else for the same quality of work, instead look for other areas such as their positive attitude or dedication.

The difficulty here is defining the line in which the relationship is most productive and then defending it. It will take a lot of trial and error, but when in doubt err on the side of respect.

Don’t get me wrong, you can garner respect though being likable, but in difficult situations such as should I punish or extend mercy, shoot for the awe effect.

How to be an Effective Leader

Spurs basketball team is effective

I’m an avid basketball player and in basketball, there are two areas of expertise – tangible and intangible skill sets. Tangibles include technical skill and athleticism, intangibles are general knowledge of the game, how to exploit weaknesses, etc.

Having a strong level of one expertise might lead to some success, but the fun really comes from when you have a healthy level of both areas.

Similarly, once you are both respected and liked, you can really push the boundaries as to what your team accomplishes.

Step 1: Have a vision

Ideas create entire nations. They level whole armies. The pen is mightier than the sword.

We’re surrounded by examples everywhere we go. Ever knew people who only wore Nike? They’ve bought into their vision.

No matter how respectable or likable you are, people don’t follow you because you’re awesome (despite what you would like to believe), they follow you because they believe you’ll bring them to greener pastures. Lebron didn’t team up with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh because he wanted to hang out more often, they came together to win. 

Live for something greater than yourself. Have a vision. Make meaning of this journey we call life and share it with others.

Step 2: Everything is for the team

Take a little extra time and effort to frame all your requests to be for the benefit of the team.

“I need this report by Monday,” becomes “The project needs this report by Monday to continue on schedule. Can you take care of it?” In the former, failure lets you down; in the latter, failure brings down the whole team.

Subconsciously, they will be more attentive and more motivated to complete the assignment. More importantly, they come to understand that you are looking out for the well-being of the group rather than your own selfish purposes which is critical for carrying out your vision.

Step 3: Learn what makes them tick

People are like video games, different buttons lead to different actions. Find out how to get the most out of your team by figuring what buttons to push and what buttons to avoid.

Somebody I used to be in a school project in used to get very irritated whenever I asked him to do something. I could’ve replaced him, however, he was exceptionally talented and it was critical that he stayed productive until I could find a replacement. Which introduced me to the tactic above.

It ended up working out, and I learned how critical it was to manage egos, including my own.

Step 4: Sit down and talk to them

It doesn’t have to be about work, actually it doesn’t really have to be about anything. This is hands down the best way to create a team atmosphere. Team bonds are created by being around one another.

Human beings have a chemical in their brain called oxytocin or the “love” chemical. Simply being around somebody you feel comfortable with releases that chemical in your brain, strengthening bonds and making you feel like you belong.

Just sitting next to your friend watching TV is better than being alone even though no words are being shared. Why? Oxytocin.

The key takeaway is that leadership is about we not me. 

A respected leader eats last.

Being a leader is inherently an unselfish act. You all know how male lions do not hunt once they have a pride. But did you know it is only because they bear the responsibility of protecting the pride from danger? Rogue lions, hyenas, poachers. The king takes on all challengers. 

So to answer the question, why firemen are so well-liked and well-respected?

It’s because you trust them with your life. It’s because they willingly put themselves in the face of danger to protect the community. It’s because they watch out for their brothers and sisters next to them.

It’s not me, it’s we.

It’s us.

Do you agree or disagree? What qualities do you look for in a leader? Leave a comment below.