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Gini Dietrich

Likable vs. Successful: The Issue Women Leaders Face

By: Gini Dietrich | December 10, 2012 | 
231

I love men. I love them as role models, mentors, and friends. I have four brothers (and one sister) so I relate very well to men.

Beginning in childhood, I’ve learned a lot from boys (not men yet). I learned from my brothers how to climb trees and change the oil in my car. I learned how to stick up for myself and how to get what I wanted.

As I entered the work force, I learned from men how biting my fingernails undermined my intelligence, how to present ideas in logical and unemotional ways, and how to think critically under fire.

And, as I’ve grown my business, I’ve learned from men how my personality best leads, how to ask for what I want, and how to put a real value on my expertise without apology.

I love men.

But they’re not the end all, be all.

Women as Leaders

Women have a significant place in this world, as well. In fact, according to Why Women Should Lead Boldly, there are several studies that show how well organizations do with women at the helm.

But we have one problem facing us: We have an innate need to be liked, which has serious and long-lasting implications.

Likable or Successful?

You see, men don’t care if you do or don’t like them. They don’t care if you don’t like their decisions. They don’t care if you are envious of their success. If they have a problem with another man, they’ll go out back, fight it out, and then have a beer together.

But women? We adjust our behavior to be likable. We do care what you think about us and that gives us less power in the boardroom and in our personal lives.

In a world where we want the top jobs and equal pay and equal rights, we have to stop playing a supporting role in our own lives. By wanting to be liked, we are more concerned with what others think about us than with doing the very best job, even if it’s not popular.

Sure, some of this requires a pretty big culture change, but that change can begin with each of us. Would you rather live your life how you think others want you to do so or determine your own path to success?

A modified version of this first appeared in my weekly Crain’s Chicago Business column.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

230 comments
tberkley
tberkley

@tanyamr reminds me of a book entitled "can nice guys get the corner office?" Interesting.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@Sparking_Social I did! That's what inspired my post.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@Ross_Quintana Thanks for your comment on that post!

RossQuintana
RossQuintana

Nice post Gini, These dynamics matter and knowing them help people grow their business or their future.

GaryHyman
GaryHyman

@ShellyKramer @ginidietrich can be both or neither - men too. And I may just have stepped into hot water :-)

kenjbarnes1
kenjbarnes1

Be respected, not liked > RE @jenniferbourn Likable vs. Successful: Issue 4 Women Leaders http://t.co/UpWEB3Ax @ginidietrich @ShellyKramer

missuku
missuku

@markwschaefer Timely as ever, @ginidietrich. You catch @jessicavalenti's piece on likability? http://t.co/TvBXQvpk #women

antheia
antheia

@namnum Interesting. I think it's less an innate desire to be liked as a socially imposed value on how to be liked. @TedRubin

JonMikelBailey
JonMikelBailey

@SioConnellan @SpinSucks Everything @ginidietrich writes is a MUST READ! Even her Facebook ramblings.

rdopping
rdopping

Bold post Gini. Not sure i agree with what you are saying. I know a few men who would disagree with the statement that men don't care what you think about them, like them or not or envy others success. I get where you are going but that was a pretty broad brush.

 

This type of commentary needs to stop. People are people and accountability through equality will never get where it needs to be until we stop labeling each other. Yeah, I know, easier said than done.

 

I personally think that the right person is the right person regardless of sex, race, creed, whatever and the big boys club will change. That old school legacy thinking will fall. We just need to bide our time, be smart and work hard to get there. Does that mean we can't want to be liked? Au contraire, the more we like you the further you will get. My wife is the poster girl for that attitude. She has made huge strides in a male dominated industry and has made all the right friends in all the right places.

 

Thanks for sharing this. Kudos for putting it out there.

animal
animal

Wd U rather be likeable or successful - MRT @jkcallas @ginidietrich - 2B successful U have 2B tuff - http://t.co/FdNcBN6k

Matt Searles
Matt Searles

I think you're wrong.

 

For one thing you're painting with a pretty broad brush... for instance many guys do care if they are liked or not.. 

 

But mostly I think the mistake is to try and tell women that they should change because they need to behave and be measured by mens rules. Didn't we have enough of those horrible shoulder pads in the 80's?  I mean.. what we need is women changing the rules of the game.. changing what it takes to find success.. not adopting the short comings of a whole lot of men because it seems to be advantageous.

 

I mean excuse me.. have you bothered to see how messed up our world is? We NEED change.. and women can bring that change.. or a part of that change anyway.

 

But I mean sure.. there's need for a balance.. you shouldn't let a desire for people to like you to paralyze you... etc... So I'm not really arguing with you per say.. or.. I don't know.. But I'll tell you something else.. women ARE going to take over. It's not like women have to do anything special to take over.. they're already doing it... it's inevitable.. 

_SKG
_SKG

@ginidietrich I for one am not surprised. :-)

janemckaycomms
janemckaycomms

Interesting post, thank you. I'm not normally interested in *yawn* politics. But... living in a country with a female Prime Minister it fascinates/amuses/horrifies me how regularly PM Julia Gillard's outfits are critiqued, she is judged because she doesn't have children and is called "cold" as she is not as (publicly) emotional as some pre-conceived notions expect her to be. While I find Julia likeable and, naturally, as a politician she adjusts her behaviour to appeal to the public, she doesn't amp up the "feminine charm" or feel the need to be overtly emotional to appeal to the general public. We still have a major skew towards male representation on boards in Australia, I think there should be a push towards a better gender balance without employing unqualified women for the sake of gender equality. Julia is, as a female leader, bold, gutsy and doesn't want to be liked, she wants to lead the country. If you want to see her making one of the most jaw-dropping speeches in Australian political history (and giving the male opposition leader what-for) watch this video:

http://media.smh.com.au/news/national-times/julia-gillards-misogyny--speech-in-full-3701787.html 

 

It made me seriously proud to have a female PM! 

tanyamr
tanyamr

@tberkley I'll have to check out that book. :)

Sparking_Social
Sparking_Social

@ginidietrich Good Morning, Gini! Welcome to our Twitter #ProfWomen and LinkedIn @PinkedOut communities!

Ross_Quintana
Ross_Quintana

@ginidietrich You bet Gini, Have a great night

namnum
namnum

@antheia & learning to achieve success on your own terms. Otherwise we build success by someone else's definition. Hollow victory. @TedRubin

namnum
namnum

@antheia disagree on that one Kate. People are wired to certain personality traits; the key is knowing it & accepting it... @TedRubin

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@JonMikelBailey I'm not sure I would go THAT far @SioConnellan @SpinSucks

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @rdopping It's become pretty clear through the comments I didn't articulate myself clearly. The studies show not that men or women don't like to be liked; rather women obsess over what people think about us. We tend to live our lives based on what we think other people want us to do, not what we want to do. That was my point and it's clear to me now I didn't get that across. 

 

Of course, it's a generalization, but the studies show females are hard wired that way and we have to change it in ourselves if we want things to be different. I'm that way. I have made poor business decisions because of my need to be liked. It hinders my success and it's something I work really hard on. I also obsess about what my parents think, my siblings think, my in-laws think...instead of just saying, "This is who I am. Love me or don't." I have a really hard time with that.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @Matt Searles I think I didn't articulate myself clearly. There is a difference between wanting to be liked (by both genders) and living your life obsessing over whether or not someone likes you. For instance, if someone writes a scathing comment on your blog, most women will obsess over that one bad comment instead of the 95 positive comments. Women tend to try to please everyone, instead of doing what is best for her, her family, her career.

 

That said, I think there is a need for a nice balance for both men and women. Neither gender needs to take over. I know it's naive to think it will ever be 50/50, but it sure would be a better world if it were.

 

My only point with this blog post was studies show women tend to want to be liked to their own detriment and we should stop it. I know I'm guilty of it and I need to take my own advice.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @janemckaycomms That's sort of what Marissa Mayer, the new CEO of Yahoo, is going through in the U.S. It's astounding what the media writes about instead of how she's running (and growing) the organization. It's definitely not something that will change without big cultural changes, but the more women like Julia in leadership positions, because they are *qualified* to be there, the more likely it is we can change things.

antheia
antheia

@namnum I'm not saying some folks aren't wired that way, I'm saying I don't think it's biologically gendered.

antheia
antheia

@namnum I don't want my nieces to accept that they have to appear that way -- hope THEY will yell about the guy jerking off on the train.

antheia
antheia

@namnum I just don't see it that way. I think that society taught me it was important to appear placid and happy.

namnum
namnum

 @ginidietrich  @rdopping I think I get where you're going @ginidietrich , and yes I agree with the generalization (larger numbers of women obsess over whether they're liked than men). But my concern is, if the studies show this is the way women are hard wired, why aren't we looking for ways to make that path work.

 

If the brain that is wired to be liked happens to be the brain of a woman who aspires to leadership, are we better off trying to find a way to help her succeed in the existing system while staying true to who she is or suggesting she try to change her wiring? I'm asking because I don't see a lot of success out there in people trying to change their core being and it seems the ones who do are ultimately less than happy. 

 

I'm not suggesting that a leader with a weakness (placating people for self-satisfaction) should be working his or her ass off to fix that weakness, I'm just wondering if trying to change people's nature is the best way to fix the problem.

 

Thanks for sharing this, you really got me thinking.

namnum
namnum

@antheia lol. I miss Dani, been ages. Text me Kate (516-882-7712) or dm me in January. Maybe we'll drag @dani3boyz along to keep it legal.

antheia
antheia

@namnum Not legally, but I'm sure we can come up with an exception. I know @Dani3boyz and I have to set a date for our own meetup.

namnum
namnum

@antheia we should get coffee next year. Are we allowed to chat without @Dani3boyz present?

namnum
namnum

@antheia nutty. It's usually quiet but, thank God, lot's of new clients & prospects this year. Also new friends & new lessons. Grateful :)

antheia
antheia

@namnum Yeah, I definitely hear that. I am crazy busy -- rough time of year for church workers! You?

namnum
namnum

@antheia btw, how the heck are you? :-) Long time...

namnum
namnum

@antheia like, Hey I'm loud & outspoken, so my daughter has to be too or else "there's something to be fixed." know what I mean?

namnum
namnum

@antheia let others know themselves, without judgement. We tend to think our own personality traits are virtuous and we look down on others.

namnum
namnum

@antheia you're damn right societal norms have to be considered, they're played on all the time. But again, know yourself & more importantly

antheia
antheia

@namnum Absolutely agreed -- the extremes are a problem. But I think that social norms play in so much, it's important to consider.

namnum
namnum

@antheia a forceful driving persona taken to the extreme is also a terrible weakness. Not knowing yourself is dangerous :)

namnum
namnum

@antheia having a persona that leads you to want to please and serve others can be a terrible weakness when taken to the extreme, but..

namnum
namnum

@antheia I'm with you, but it's 2 different things. Wanting to be liked should never keep you from asserting your needs and rights.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @namnum  I don't know if that's the right answer. For instance, I know I haven't made business decisions that needed to be made because I was more concerned about how the person would feel about me when the decision was made (i.e. firing them). Which is totally ridiculous and I've begun to outgrow that, but it definitely plagued me in the early years of running my business.

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  1. […] reviewing the fears that paralyzed you on earth. We spend a good amount of our time worrying about people liking us, what our board will say, where our numbers are…you know what I mean because you’re […]