Leadership Likeability

Had a great convo at lunch today with two different staff members. We each have different roles on the campus and varies experiences. One a former high school teacher, one a former 1st grade teacher and me…

We were discussing our next school event and the inadvertent commotion it has caused. In May, we’re planning a “prom” as our school wide occasion. It was requested by one of our fabulous 5th graders last year, and has just been in the books since

then. The “planning” books…it hasn’t been officially announced to students or parents yet.

There have been several concerns, which we were going

over at lunch and my two table mates were going back and forth over the pros and cons. Regardless of what one said, the other had a brilliant counter point. Sitting there listening,  it was clearly going to be another situation in life where I wasn’t going to win.

If we just canceled the event…people were going be upset. If we held it, renamed it, re-themed it…people were going to be upset. One lunch mate commented that she was glad she wasn’t ever in my position because it just went against her nature for people to not like her, where as I clearly made decisions that albeit unintentionally, divided people.

Now that I’ve been in this role, I have such empathy for people who have to make hard decisions. (Obviously, the prom isn’t a life impacting decision, but still…you know what I mean.) I look at Obama, or CEO’s, or superintendents and think about what tough decisions they have to make…and those ARE life impacting decisions. They have to stay true to themself and really look out for the greater good. In my lil’ol chair, it can still be tough.

You come back to the concept of leader likeability and there’s a great quote that comes to mind.


As long as the decisions I make are made in the best interest of our Lions, I can

handle the naysayers. (Some days better than others,


I’ve definitely learned that there are times where I don’t get to share my side or have my say and that just comes with the territory. Being a leader isn’t about being liked, it’s about doing what we have to do. Life isn’t always pretty and if we want to have a successful school, sometimes tough actions need to be taken. Leaders who have to be liked, rather than respected, lose credibility, confidence and support. I think I’d rather be respected and known as consistent,  more than win a popularity contest.




20 comments for “Leadership Likeability

  1. April 18, 2013 at 10:37 am

    Amber, yes! My experience on the school board and leading MCLE in TN for 24 years also suggests that, if you lead, someone will accuse you of bad motives. That’s the part that, to me, really hurt. And as you say, often with no chance to explain.

    Shalom Shwartz has found that, in hundreds of countries, 1)ten groups of values are endorsed and (2)each value, while somewhat compatible with its neighbors, pull away from those that are furthest from it on the list (imagine the list as a circle with top and bottom joined). I suggest the toughest decisions are those where values are somehow in conflict, and that resolving them in a group of humans can be eased by acknowledging both values and giving recognition and support in some form to the value or values that lose out in the immediate decision. Would this fit your prom situation at all?


    • April 19, 2013 at 3:17 pm

      Hi Dave, 🙂 thank you for reading and commenting!

      We’ve solved the problem…at least I haven’t heard anything else yet, 😉
      We’re going to host the “Come one, come all, to the Luna Family Ball”, 🙂

  2. April 18, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Thanks for this thoughtful reflection on leadership. It struck a cord related to the work we do in partnership with schools. Our beginning point is always to build a collaborative culture using norms of collaboration. The norm that comes to mind reading your post is “presume positive intentions.” If we truly hold a collective vision for our school and our students, and keep this norm at the forefront, sometimes the criticism can subside–or at least there is a platform for discussing and understanding decisions like the one you refer to here. We can begin to understand that each decision (although not the one we might personally make) has been done to foster our agreed goals and with the right intentions in mind.

    So often, district leaders urge us to skip over this part of the professional development work and get right to using data for improvement. However, we believe that there must be a shared understanding of where our hearts are committed before changes in policy and practice can occur and be well supported.

    Thanks for helping us think about this again.
    Mary Anne Mather
    TERC Using Data Facilitator and former classroom teacher

    • April 19, 2013 at 3:18 pm

      I LOVE that phrase “presume positive intentions”, 🙂 Will be utilizing that as I move forward! 🙂 Thanks for reading & commenting!

  3. April 19, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    Nice Article and reflection. Your comments and points are duly noted. They illustrate even more clearly, as school leaders, we are here to serve all of our constituents. It is our charge to ensure they are content while being able to do their jobs with as much efficacy as possibly. Servant leadership my friend and you are a shining example of what leadership is…

    • April 22, 2013 at 1:57 pm

      Hi Bill! Thanks for reading & responding! Glad it reasonated with you as well, 🙂

  4. April 20, 2013 at 12:41 pm


    Thank you for reminding us that being liked should not be our primary goal, but being respected should be. I think we can be respected without possibly being liked. Leadership can be hard but then who said it was easy.

    “Nobody can dim the light that shines from within.” Maya Angelou



    • April 22, 2013 at 1:58 pm

      Hi Robert, 🙂
      Anytime a post can be connected with Maya Angelou, I think success! Thanks for reading and responding!


  5. April 20, 2013 at 8:01 pm


    You have great points. No matter what we do, we will not please everyone. The only way to please everyone is to do nothing, but eventually they, too, will be displeased. So if you can’t please them, make the best decision for the organization, for that’s the only thing that needs to be pleased.

    Nice work,

    • April 22, 2013 at 1:59 pm

      So true John! Def something it’s taken me several years to learn, :-/
      Thanks for reading & responding!


  6. April 20, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    Thank you! I feel the weight this time of year, of all the decisions we make. This year I have had to make very difficult decisions on staff cuts and programs. Reading this just helped to reaffirm me- do what is best for kids and for your school, and it will be ok.
    Thank you

    • April 22, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      awww, I feel your pain, Adam! Keep on truckN! 🙂 thank you for reading and responding!!


  7. April 22, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    It isn’t about being liked although the best ones can be amazingly likable. I know a very special one who can tell someone they are being laid off and the person leaves his office feeling really good! Most teachers will work their tail off for an adminstrator who acknowledges their expertise, listens to their point of view, has an open door, respects all opinions and is upfront about sharing what she wants and why.

  8. May 6, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    Thanks for this post. A simple but very important reminder. I think, in the end, that even if a leader’s decisions don’t please people, they will like and respect us for being able to see the whole picture and do what we believe is right for our people.

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