Is it more important to be well liked or to be considered competent?

According to new research, if you want to be influential and successful as a leader you need to be both likeable and competent.  However, likeability is much more important initially. By exhibiting warmth, you are able to create a connection with others and this connection leads to a foundation of trust.

According to a recent Harvard Business Review article,

“A growing body of research suggests that the way to influence-and to lead-is to begin with warmth. Warmth is the conduit of influence. It facilitates trust and the communication and absorption of ideas.”

“Most leaders today tend to emphasize their strength, competence, and credentials in the workplace, but that is exactly the wrong approach. Leaders who project strength before establishing trust run the risk of eliciting fear, and along with it a host of dysfunctional behaviors.”

What happened to the warning we women have received for decades that nice girls don’t succeed in business? We have been coached to believe that our tendency as women is to be too nice; our focus on being well-liked prevents us from being seen as leadership material. We have been advised to lead with our competence and our track record. We have been told that we need to be perceived as effective, not necessarily “nice”.

Is anyone else besides me confused?

Here’s my take on this issue. Understanding your value proposition and how you contribute to the success of the organization is still the first important step. We need to connect first with ourselves and our value, our competence.

Next, in order to create the influence and credibility we desire in the workplace, we need to form relationships with others. These key relationships should to be built on mutual trust, respect, and confidence.

“Trust provides the opportunity to change people’s attitudes and beliefs, not just their outward behavior. That’s the sweet spot when it comes to influence and the ability to get people to fully accept your message.”

Showing a keen interest in people and demonstrating personal warmth creates the initial bond and trust. Find out everything you can about the people with whom you want to establish connections. Don’t make it all about you. Find out what motivates and interests them and begin to build the relationship from that perspective.

In other words, lead with your warmth. Lead with your interest in learning more about them. Establish the connection and trust and let others know how you can help them achieve their goals based on your unique value.