How To Lead People You Don’t Like

As a leader you need to focus on building the best team and not on building a team of best friends.
10 Mar 2019 11:03
How To Lead People You Don’t Like

Last week, while I was de­livering a workshop on self confidence and assertive­ness, I was asked this fascinating question.

“How should a leader lead people they don’t like?”

It was a question that demon­strated a large amount of honesty and courage because there are many leaders who would want to ask the question but wouldn’t feel comfortable doing so.

Not everyone is going to like eve­ryone, it’s unfortunate but it’s a reality. As a leader it’s inevitable that you will find yourself in a sit­uation that you are leading a per­son or maybe a few people who you wouldn’t chose to be friends with and that’s fine.

Because while you will not like everyone, it’s also true that not everyone is going to like you.

Stop caring you stop leading

As a leader you don’t have to like everyone but you do have to care for people because when you stop caring you stop leading.

Focusing on the question, let me share with you two answers.

Firstly the short answer and sec­ondly the long one.

The short answer is “tough.”

Leaders need to understand that leadership is about many things but it’s never about them.

If your ambition is only to work with people who are friends with then you are not a good leader and you will never be a good leader. Because you’re putting your own personal needs ahead of the needs of the team.

Now that I got that out of the way let me give you the longer answer.

If you are a leader and you find yourself in a position that you are working with people you don’t like then you need to explore why you feel this way.

Just consider for a moment the number of people who you have met during your life.

The number would easily be in the thousands maybe tens of thou­sands and now think of how many of those people you have met who have ended up becoming a close personal friend.

It’s a much smaller number – now ask yourself why.

Forming a friendship

People typically form friendships or close bonds because of “similar­ity attractive effect”

This is when people see a quality in someone else that they them­selves possess or they want to pos­sess.

Friendships then grow through shared experiences over time.

This is how human beings have operated throughout history and continue to do so.

With this knowledge you need to ask yourself as a leader, do you re­ally like the other person or do you not know them well enough?

An average leader can only lead a team that consists of certain type of people yet a great leader can lead anyone.

Which type of leader you want to be

You need to ask yourself which type of leader you want to be.

If you want to be a great leader then you need to get to know every­one within your team and in each person you need to find the quali­ties they have that make them spe­cial.

You will never like everything about everybody but within each person you will find qualities that you admire. To be honest there’s going to be some people that you will have to dig deeper than others but there are good qualities within everyone.

You just need to find them and when you do, you will find the bar­riers that exist between the two of you will start to break down.

When you start focussing on the positive qualities then you will start seeing the person in a differ­ent light.

Then you need to create shared experiences, talk with people, work alongside them, celebrate their successes together and when there are failures, work on solu­tions together.

When people have these shared experiences and more important­ly when they see how people add value to the team then you will see relationships change over time.

There’s no doubt that work is much more fun if you are working with your friends but in my experi­ence a team of best friends is not always the best team.

Focus on team building

As a leader you need to focus on building the best team and not on building a team of best friends. So if you find yourself in a situation that you have to lead someone you don’t like you need to take the initiative and get to know that per­son. Discover qualities within that person that you admire and start spending time with that person.

If you do this you may never be­come close friends but you will find a level of mutual understand­ing and respect and you will see that this is enough for the team to be successful.

Mr Wager will be visiting Fiji in April.

If you would like Mr Wager to train your managers contact him at


Fiji Sun Instagram