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Do leaders need to be popular?

I’m going to be a bit vulnerable with you today and share some feedback that I received this week.

The feedback is from a group of leaders who participated in an eight-month leadership program that I designed and facilitated. 

I love reading this kind of feedback. I always find it interesting to note that each person’s experience of the same program, content, and approach can be quite different. 

For example, here are two pieces of verbatim feedback that I received:

Feedback #1:

“I really enjoy Vanessa’s enthusiastic nature. The course has really made me think about the formal methods of leadership and I am now making more of a conscious effort to implement said methods learned.” 

Feedback #2

“Not feedback per se but I find it quite intimidating at times with the intensity of delivery. I think Vanessa is great although I worry that the level of persistent enthusiasm causes others to interact less for fear of not matching that enthusiasm and energy.” 

So, here we have two people commenting on my “enthusiasm”. One person found it enjoyable, while the other found it too intense.

This feedback reminds me of a vital leadership lesson I have learned over the years. It is this:

Leadership is NOT a popularity contestLeadership is NOT a popularity contest. 

I know that some people will like me and find my style very engaging.

I also know that some people will not resonate with my style.

Guess what?

I am 100% okay with this fact.

I am 100% comfortable with both reactions to my style.

My job is NOT to be popular. 

My job is to develop great leaders who get great results by coaching and motivating their people!

To be frank, your job is not a popularity contest either.

As a leader, you will have to make difficult decisions. These decisions won’t always be popular.

As a leader, you will have to give difficult feedback. This feedback won’t always be received well.

As a leader, you have to re-structure, let people go, or implement changes that won’t always be popular.

It’s just part of the job!

So, if leadership isn’t about being popular…what is it about?

  1. Showing up authentically as yourself.
  2. Being true to your values.
  3. Making, not avoiding, decisions that can be difficult 
  4. Building high-trust, respectful relationships up, down and across your organization
  5. Being willing to engage in conversations where there is “healthy conflict”

I know that I can sometimes be “too enthusiastic” for some people who bring a different kind of energy to the workplace.

In fact, by reading the room, I consciously focus on toning down my enthusiasm at times.

But at the end of the day, I am very focused on the JOB that I need to do and the RESULTS that I MUST achieve for my clients. 

I am very focused on living with integrity and treating everyone with kindness and respect…whether or not they resonate with my leadership style. 

So, remember, being a leader comes with many tough choices and responsibilities. 

Bring your best self to work every day and don’t worry too much about being popular. 

In other news…

Lead Your People Program starts February 17th, 2022.

If you are ready to learn exactly how to coach, motivate and develop a high-performing team…then join me for this 6-module program and understand the “nuts and bolts” of effective leadership.

If you are hoping to move from feeling overwhelmed by all of your priorities to feeling confident and organized – this program will be a game-changer for you!

You can register and find out more here

Vanessa Judelman

Vanessa Judelman is an author, coach, and sought-after leadership expert. Over the past 20 years, she has created a proven formula to develop results-oriented leaders who feel empowered and confident in their job. Vanessa is the author of Mastering Leadership: What It Takes to Lead in Today’s Fast-Paced World. Order your copy here.

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