You don’t have to be liked to be a leader. I completely agree with that. Now, don’t freak out and say, “But Katrina, you said I have to build trust in my team, and to build trust, I have to be trustworthy. How can I be considered a leader of someone who doesn’t like me?”
I’m glad you asked. 😁 The answer to that is that your direct reports do need to be able to trust you. Inherently, they will see you as trustworthy. But being trustworthy doesn’t mean that they would hang out with you or consider you a friend outside of work. This is what I mean by, “liked.”
When you think about your work relationships, most people you work with are individuals you respect for their work ethic, their commitment to the mission and the business, etc. However, most of the people you work with are not individuals you would befriend otherwise. And that is perfectly fine. The key is that you interact with these individuals so regularly in the work environment, that you appreciate what they bring to the table. The idea that you have to like them to consider them a leader goes out the door. Of course, you see them as a leader, they are an asset to the company.
Now that we are working remotely, the ability to see these individuals in action has rapidly declined. You (and others) are having to simply trust that the person in question is a good leader, is trustworthy, etc. The ability to accept the “I don’t have to like them I just have to see their work value” mentality is harder to achieve in this new world.
Why? Because in reality, you never actually sought out the ability to see this peer, senior leader, vendor, contractor, etc. before going to work remotely. The opportunity to see them in their element naturally existed and you took advantage of it. Now that that opportunity is gone, it is harder to build trust with someone you don’t necessarily like, or connect with on a basic level.
To overcome this, you must take purposeful action to close these gaps in a remote environment. Talk to your team, ask them who they are struggling to trust, work with, or give the benefit of the doubt. Have them tell you who that is as well as what would help close that gap. Also ask your peers to do the same with their teams in case you also need to join any of their calls, build rapport and trust with others in the matrix environment.
You don’t have to solve this problem alone. And it may not be a problem at all. But you won’t know until you ask.