The worst leadership advice I ever got

In this journey of growth each one of us receives advice both professionally and personally, whether or not it is solicited. I vividly remember being called to my boss’ office just six months into my new managerial role for a feedback session.

Please keep in mind that as a new manager, this was a season of working day and night trying to prove to my self, colleagues and my boss that I was the best and that I was changing things for the better through building a high performing team culture!


With my pen and notebook in hand I went in to listen.


My boss started the meeting by telling me that she had worked with many managers in my position and the ONE thing in common with all high performing managers is that “...they are all hated by their colleagues and I have observed with concern that everyone here likes you, so this tells me that you are not doing your job”.


At this moment, my pen that was hovering over my notebook ready to jot down nuggets of wisdom had unconsciously slipped from my fingers and now lay motionless on the white untouched page of my notebook.

Wow! My mind started racing with things like, wait, is she serious? How can I make everyone hate me so I could prove that I was doing my job? Is it true? Should good managers be hated by everyone?

I left her office confused and wondering whether I should be hurt or angry or happy about the feedback. Although I never wrote down the feedback, it stuck with me for a long time.

When I got back to my desk, the natural step was to sit and stare! As the blank screen of my computer stared back I began to think about my boss and how we all related to her. Hold on a minute, she had succeeded in making sure that everybody hated her, no one liked her for sure! How was that working for her?

Things were not looking good! The office environment was tense, staff turnover was high, there were trust issues, people were working in silos and the list could go on! It was bad!

As far as my professional life is concerned, this was the worst leadership advice of all time! Even Machiavelli in the Prince explored being loved vs being feared, not hated!

This was wrong! As I have grown over the years in my career, I have observed that , no one  will go a long with you if they cannot get along with you.

In fact, research tells us that our success as leaders is 13% product knowledge and 87% relationships! This is the first rule of building a team that has a high performing team culture.

While you cannot make everybody like you, it is the role of a leader to make efforts to build relationships that are meaningful.

If you cannot work well with people, then you cannot influence them.  If you can’t influence them, then you cannot lead them. It is that plain and simple. 

To be a successful leader you have to learn how to become a person of influence. What I have enjoyed the most as a coach, is to put into the hands of leaders, tools to help them become those leaders who speak and every body listens without using force, manipulation, and or intimidation, while getting amazing results from their teams almost effortlessly.

If you want to learn more, reach out at

The author is an Independent Certified Coach, Trainer and Speaker.

The views expressed in this article are of the author.

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