It Starts Here – Leaders Need to Like the People they Lead

Josh and Pres. BartletBARTLET:
I’ve been a real jackass to you, Josh.


To everybody. Toby Ziegler, C.J. Cregg, Sam Seaborn.


Don’t think I don’t know what you gave up to work on this campaign, and don’t think that I don’t know your value. And I’ll never make you think I don’t again.
You got to be a little impressed that I got all those names right just now.

Josh and President Bartlet, at the airport after Josh’s father died — The West Wing, In the Shadow of Two Gunmen, Part 2
(find the script here)


In the last 24 hours, I have presented a three hour seminar on “Leadership” for a group of officers at the Dallas Police Department, and… my wife’s father died.

Tribal LeadershipThe seminar drew significantly from the book Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization by Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright. In the midst of the presentation, I had the participants write this phrase:

A leader really has to _______ people.

I had them think about what goes in the blank, and a lot of words come to mind: nurture, encourage, coach, correct, to name just a few… But then I gave them the key word – the one indispensable trait of a good leader, the starting place for anyone who ever aspires to lead people:

A leader really has to like people.

You’ve seen people in leadership positions who just did not seem to like people at all. And, trust me, a person who does not like people is known as a person who does not like people.

But liking people is the starting point for all else. Every moment spent in listening to people, coaching, mentoring, encouraging, flows from the starting point of “I like people, and want the best for them, so I want to invest in them, spend time on their development, see them grow.”

It’s what is behind all the counsel about “management by walking around.” A person who does not like people wants to avoid people — wants to stay “hidden” in his/her office, never out and about among the folks. Being among the folks really matters. And, you sort of have to like those folks to be willing to be out and about among those folks.

The authors of Tribal Leadership remind us:

The only real goal is the betterment of the tribe. (This results in) esteem, respect, loyalty, legacy and enduring success.

And, it is better to have more than just “one other” person in the conversation. Again from the book:

Next time you go to Starbucks, take two friends, not one.


Without any coaching, people advance through stages very slowly. (referring to the five stages of a tribe – read this blog post to learn more about these five stages).

Last week, at Success North Dallas, Clint Bruce (former Navy SEAL Team 5 member) said that anybody can be on a team, but being in a tribe requires a much deeper level of commitment to one another. I get that…

And, it all starts with wanting to be around these other people – liking people.

If you are a leader, here’s your question — do you like the people you lead? If not, you’re probably in the wrong spot, and your people are in pretty sad shape with you as their leader.

Back to my wife’s father… the family has gathered in the last few days. Our two sons both came to spend final moments with their grandfather, and especially many important moments with their mother. It was pretty wonderful to see the closeness, even in the midst of the sadness. It is as it should be.

People need to be connected to other people. And for most of us, families are where it all starts.

Building tribes can’t match the closeness of a strong family, but people who build a “tribal connection” at work sure are ahead of the unengaged employees who are simply not-very-connected.

To borrow from thoughts from another good book, Leadership Secrets of the Navy Seals:

There is no room for “employees” or “mercenaries” — only people on a mission; part of a bigger picture, part of a movement serving to fulfill a great mission.

People on a mission, part of a movement, spend a lot of time together. It all starts with liking those people you spend time with… It all starts with liking people.


Now…  what if you really don’t like people?  My suggestion — learn to like people.  (It is possible).  Maybe start with reading Love is the Killer App by Tim Sanders.Love App


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