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Are Unpopular CEOs Bad for Business? Two Founders Weigh In

Are Unpopular CEOs Bad for Business? Two Founders Weigh In

The acerbic style of Away CEO Steph Korey prompted an employee tempest that led to her (temporary) resignation. We asked two founders to comment on t

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The acerbic style of Away CEO Steph Korey prompted an employee tempest that led to her (temporary) resignation. We asked two founders to comment on the importance of the boss’s popularity. 

Does CEO likability strengthen company culture?

Allison Kopf: My company has a core value: “We’re a team, not a family.” I believe strongly in creating a culture in which we choose to work alongside our teammates because they are the best at what they do.

Priscilla Tsai: You can’t force everyone to like you, but you spend more time together than you do with anyone else in your life. You ultimately need to like one another as people.

Are employees more productive when they like you?

Kopf: Asking employees to be productive because they like you is like asking for a favor. You’ll get more long-lasting productivity from people who simply like the work they’re doing.

Tsai: For employees, liking the founder or the CEO is important to buying into the company’s mission. When employees are engaged, they have a reason to be productive.

Is your likability a valid business metric?

Kopf: Your job as a founder is threefold: Hire well, make sure there’s enough money, and set the vision. The more time you’re focused on employees’ liking you, the more time you’re not focused on these three things.

Tsai: Yes, but in a way that pushes me to be better and to make the company stronger. Not every decision I make will go over smoothly, but I need to be in tune with what my team needs and how I can better help them.

Does your likability affect turnover?

Kopf: It can, but turnover happens for a variety of reasons–when the company has no mission, there is misalignment on goals, or people have other opportunities.

Tsai: If your employees don’t like you as a person, it’s difficult for all parties to withstand the ups and downs that come with building a business together. That kind of friction will inevitably lead to more turnover.

Advantage: Tsai

CEOs can’t discount the effect that their likability has on a company’s image–and on the bottom line. Research published last year in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that while likability is not the most important component of leadership, employees who like their leaders perform at a higher level. Of course, wanting to be liked is one thing, but actually getting your employees to like you is a challenge unto itself.

From the March/April 2020 issue of Inc. Magazine

This article is from Inc.com

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