In Art Of Coaching Podcast, Podcasts

Welcome to 2022- positivity is trendy, motivational quotes plaster coffee shop walls and the “self-help” and “leadership” sections of bookstores have become one. 

This may be the norm, but it’s not productive for society. 

In our messy world, reducing complex human behavior and leadership to clichés and black & white thinking can be both dangerous and ineffective. 

True leadership requires authenticity- acting in accordance with one’s true self. A leader who is worried about being liked will not make decisions in the best interest of those they lead and/or risk burnout. 

On today’s episode we discuss:

  1. Why you shouldn’t worry about being liked
  2. The  evolutionary & psychological origins of “likeability”
  3. What we can do to work through the likeability obstacle
  4. How wanting to to be liked leads to burnout & other disastrous outcomes

Part of developing and sharing your authentic self comes from knowing how to communicate effectively. Join The Conscious Coaching Challenge: 30 Days of communication material, challenges, access to our team, weekly Zoom Q&A’s and giveaways! Starting SOON! 

As you heard mentioned on today’s episode: understanding someone’s drives is a CRUCIAL part of understanding how to lead them. Take the Drives Quiz here

Finally, shoutout to the sponsors of today’s episode: Dynamic Fitness & Strength and Momentous. Dynamic is our title sponsor and our go-to equipment guys. If you need anything for your home or full-sized gym- they offer the most affordable, customizable, durable equipment on the market. 

Momentous is our oldest partner, but they are STILL improving their product. If you are looking for the best tasting and cleanest protein out there, look no further. Code: BRETT15 gets you 15% off!


Brett Bartholomew  0:22  

Some of the things that hit us the hardest in life are the simple truths that we just can’t get away from. And one of those truths is that when it comes to finding ways to improve, there’s always going to be a strain on your time and your energy commitments. And I don’t know anybody who doesn’t struggle with some level of balance in their relationships, their professional development, and overall the pursuit of less stress and just more growth. But as many of you know, because it’s why you listen to this podcast, because you get tired of the same old leadership and coaching mumbo jumbo, these things do not magically get better by reading a book or journaling or just continuing to grind it out, there’s going to come a point when you need to ask yourself if there’s a better way and approach. And the good news is from somebody that’s made those mistakes before, there is, this is exactly why we created our new 30 Day Challenge. 


If you are somebody who wants better relationships, less stress, and overall, you just like having a plan for improving. So you feel like your time is not wasted, and you’re not jumping from one lane to the next. And you want to learn how to be better at knowing what to say in some of your most stressful moments. Go to Now to reserve your spot, we’re really excited about this. This is how it breaks down. After you sign up, you’re gonna get access to a private digital community, with other leaders from a wide variety of fields, and coaches. And everybody’s going to be working on these things together. Now, what things all of this is centered around, knowing how to figure out how to find your voice, right, whether that’s your personal communication style, figuring out how to speak in a way that more people hear you and your suggestions, better body language, becoming a better listener, being able to just get your point across be more relatable, be more persuasive, and be able to tackle any difficult negotiation, you face your way. And the nice thing is you are going to have access to me and my colleague Ali Kershner every week. So you’re going to be able to ask questions interact with our team on Zoom calls, we’re going to be interacting directly with you. This isn’t something where you just come into some forum and your questions loss. So one night each week, you’re gonna get on a zoom, and we’re going to answer any of your burning questions, you can come with anything you have that is engaged with that theme for that week, then we’re going to go on to that and discuss it more in depth, you’re gonna have direct access 24/7, and you’re gonna have PDFs, assignments, reference points, all these things that are gonna allow you to stay on track 


Listen we know that not everybody has the time to do a six month course, we know that you can always travel, but there’s only so many excuses you’re going to be able to make for your personal and professional development and being able to grow. So this is a really accessible way. Let us help you let us be a part of your life in your improvement plan. Go to right now. 


Also, today’s episode is brought to you by Dynamic Fitness and Strength Dynamic is, our title sponsor, and they’re our go to equipment, guys. If you need absolutely anything for your home or your full size gym, no matter what your budget is, they offer the most affordable customizable and durable equipment on the market. We are getting a new matte red rack for our home gym that’s customized for art of coaching. And while other companies have a massively time or we’re charging, in some instances, well over $10,000 due to supply chain shortages, and their inefficiency with their manufacturing dynamic was able to turn ours around within weeks. And in a way that did not make me have to sit there and think why am I paying for this when there’s so many other things that we could spend our money on. This was huge for us. The other thing is they talk to you like an actual human beings. They don’t act like if you’re not in the industry. Or if you don’t know exactly what you want that you’re a bother. So make sure to check them out, go to And make sure to let them know that we sent you. 


Today’s topic is also brought to you by Momentous. With more than 150 advocates across the sporting world, Special Forces and corporate America. Momentous stands alone and providing no nonsense products ranging from grass fed and vegan proteins, fish oil and one of my favorites, their elites the formula all of us at art of coaching, appreciate things that are focused on humility over hype and Momentous does that visit And be sure to use code Brett 25 for a discount


Welcome to the Art of coaching podcast, a show aimed at getting to the core of what it takes to change attitudes, behaviors and outcomes in the weight room, boardroom classroom, and everywhere in between. I’m your host, Brett Bartholomew, I’m a performance coach, keynote speaker, and the author of the book conscious coaching. But most importantly, I’m a lifelong student interested in all aspects of human behavior and communication. I want to thank you for joining me. And now let’s dive into today’s episode.


All right, thank you for sitting down with me. Now, given everything we have talked about prior on this podcast, with respect to things like power dynamics, the use of influence tactics, the role of perception and behavior change, learning how to understand the drives that make others tick, and numerous other episodes about the otherwise messy realities of leadership, it was inevitable an episode like this needed to happen. Today, we’re going to follow up on a listener inquiry that is entirely centered around how leaders of all kinds can navigate relationships with those they lead. Now, more specifically, this is around the topic of likability, our leaders who are well liked more effective, should you worry about being likeable. 


So let’s get into this. Now, it is also worth noting here that there’s going to be some topics and things mentioned that I’m not. going to go into exhaustive detail here because I want to keep our focus on the key theme of wanting to be liked and likeability. That said, respect your time to give you an index and to respect the time of people that have listened and then locked into other episodes, I am going to mention 14 episodes that discuss a number of the things that you might hear us mention here in more in depth. Okay, so if you have some notes ready, these are the episodes I’ll give you the numbers and the title real quickly. Number two, go back and listen to that of the art of coaching podcasts. All of these are the art of coaching podcast that is on culture. Number 46. There’s an episode called the leadership lie. Number 63 is a primer on power dynamics. 85 is all about why your message is not getting across and reasons that might be occurring. Number 90 is about the role of improv in coaching and leadership. And 105 is about imposter phenomenon. 117 is about impression management, which definitely ties in with this 130 is about drives and buy in and what that really means and how we can look beyond the buzzwords. 


137 is about the downfalls of servant based leadership. And 146 is all about burnout, something we’ll talk about a little bit here. 152 is about storytelling and self awareness that very much has to do with the narratives we engage with and tell ourselves about leadership and ourselves. 187 is about archetypes which ties in of course, because people are different, as are their behaviors under different circumstances. Number 202 is all about why facts and logic don’t change our minds. And number 207 is about perception. There will be another one by the time you hear this as well about assertiveness that I recommend you listen to, again, this is episodes 2 46 63 85  90 105 177 130 137 146 152 187 202 207. I know that’s a lot. We’ll try to link them. I just tried to give you guys a consistent index and a really wide spread of things that you can learn from so that we can stay on point. 


All right. Now that that’s out of the way, should leaders or you as a leader worry about being light? My short, most no nonsense answer is simply no. But that doesn’t really help you does it? As a matter of fact, you’ve likely already know this. So let’s go a bit deeper. If you were here and wanting me to explain my answer, I’d say this in a more casual setting. The first thing most leaders aka you need to realize is that leadership is often a lonely, full contact sport. It requires somebody willing to make tough decisions. It requires somebody being willing to stand outside the conventions and norms of maybe even society at that time to make a decision if not just organizationally. It requires someone who’s willing to have tough conversations, and it definitely requires somebody who is somebody who wants to be able to operate from a place of uncertainty. I mean that is inherent to today. Many prominent CEOs and military leaders alike as well as world class athletes will tell you they have to make do with incomplete information much of the time whether that’s reading long form like strategy, Hey, what are we going to do? What are the profit and loss statement show? What are our shareholders need? Or reading defenses? You know, and in some research shows that these leaders especially those in Fortune 500 companies have to make decisions more than 70% of the time without complete information. They’re always having to Make adjustments on the fly. According to Bennis, 2001, and Campbell 2007. The amount of stress, uncertainty anxiety that leaders feel today is greater than any time in history. Why is that? Well, in part, many of you feel this. It’s because the sheer amount of information they have to process is often more than 27 newspapers worth of information today. 


And there’s no way that we can all just really be able to hold on to that it’s almost like hitting a baseball, when they look at how it is that people are able to hit a fastball that comes across home plate that about 102 miles per hour. By and large. It’s impossible based on how the eye tracks and our nervous system and the latency phase. But we do so based off of a series of mental models, previous experiences, and yes senses. So much of our life, no matter what we’re doing physically or intellectually is going to have to deal with uncertainty, 


but without going into the weeds of uncertainty and forecasting, because that’s better left to folks like Daniel Kahneman, Philip Tetlock. The point is, is that by nature, if leaders have to make tough decisions and have tough conversations, this means inherently somebody at some level of the organization, or external to the organization, is going to be disappointed by a particular decision. That’s the definition of something that is tough, meaning that it’s not going to appease everybody. Now, I mentioned those inside and outside. Because remember, leadership, despite how it’s been depicted, is never about one person. It is about how the context, the environment, the history of a team or an organization, and its stakeholders all interact to form what eventually becomes labeled as leadership, and really effective. leadership’s are not effective leaders are not universally light, but they are adaptable. So with this being overly concerned with being light is associated with poor decision making and poor communication.


Still want me to prove it? Okay. But let’s pause and think about how you know, this is self evident. When it comes to making decisions. You’re inherently whether it’s as a parent as a family member, whether it’s a significant other a boss, or colleague, you are inherently going to have to do so make decisions with context that other parties or shareholders don’t always have. I mean, even the most transparent organizations cannot involve everybody at every level in every decision. It would simply cripple an organization based on the amount of bureaucracy that would be invited in. And this is a lot about what Stanley McChrystal talks about General Stanley McChrystal and his book team of teams with respect to decentralize command. there were so many things changing day to day, in various wars that the United States and really other countries were facing when it dealt with terrorists, that by the time they got stuff up to the chain of command, the situation had changed change. So a lot of countries and a lot of individuals, definitely America was struggling fighting certain wars. Because this ad hoc guerrilla Splinter Cell kind of way of operating that terrorists were utilizing was beyond the capabilities of American military to really navigate that bureaucracy. And you know, with information coming at us faster, and in more complex ways, due to it being funneled by so many voices in narratives, even if everybody was privy to the same information, it would be interpreted and perceived in different ways, which then of course leads to conflict. I mean, come on, guys, we can’t even as a people agree on what we think, hey, what’s your favorite movie? What’s the best movie? What’s the best pizza restaurant go back to 207. To hear about the a more in depth look at perception.


But the bottom line is if you’re constantly worried about what people will think of every decision you make, you will also inherently start to ignore your intuition. You’re going to devalue your own perspective, you’re going to be more likely to be swayed by groupthink and biases as opposed to being able to assess things both objectively and subjectively, then that spells trouble when you consider that leaders can’t just deal with the now we because we are all leaders in some contexts are going to have to always deal with uncertain futures


Right. So I guess the point there, if we continue to siphon it down is whenever you see universal consensus and collaboration, you are inevitably going to invite calamity at some level. Venture Capitalist Mark susur wrote an analysis of two companies Yang and Yahoo and their demise or perceived demise. And his quote was tough decisions don’t always make you friends. By default. If it is a tough decision, some people will inherently think you made the wrong one. And when it means a change in somebody’s power, their money, their stature, or even canceling a project that somebody has poured 18 months of their lives into, you’re not going to be popular. Bad leaders want to be loved too much and their companies or their countries suffer


Now, slowing you down for a moment when I think of tough decisions, because that is where we’re at wanting to be liked can lead you down a path where you’re unable to make tough decisions. I can’t help but put much above what Stanislav Petrov did. Now, if you haven’t heard of this, it’s best to kind of summarize via an article published by the Atlantic in 2013. So imagine this close your eyes if it’s safe to do so. It was September 26 1983. Stanislav Petrov, a lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Air Defense Forces was on duty, and he was on duty at a secret bunker outside of Moscow. His job was to monitor OCO, the Soviet Union’s early warning system for nuclear attack. Remember, this is the 1980s and then to pass any alerts along to his superiors. So as just after midnight when the alarm bells began sounding, one of the system satellites had detected that the United States had launched five ballistic missiles, and this is at the peak or near the peak of the Cold War, and they were heading towards the USSR. Electronic maps flash Bell screamed, reports streamed in, and a backlit red screen flash the word launch, prompting him to try to launch the nuclear missiles in retaliation, that the US would be lobbing missiles towards its Soviet counterpart would not, of course, had been out of the question at that time in human history. Three weeks earlier, Russians had shot down a South Korean airliner that had wandered into Soviet airspace. And at that time, NATO had responded with a show of military exercises. And you know, with this Cold War, there was just a lot really riding on this. Was this accurate? Was this not, and Petrov had a hunch or what he described as a funny feeling in my gut. He would later recall that the alarm ringing through the bunker was a false one. It was an intuition that was based on common sense. The alarm indicated that only five missiles were headed towards the USSR. And had the US actually been launching a nuclear attack. Petrov figured it would have been extensive, much more, or at the very least, certainly more than five. So the article continues. Soviet ground radar, meanwhile, had failed to pickup corroborative evidence of these incoming missiles even after several minutes had elapsed


So think about this, what would you do? You’re alone, you’re in a bunker, and alarms are screaming and lights are flashing and you have your training, you have your intuition, you have two choices, you’re going to follow protocol, or you’re going to trust your gut. But either way, the entire world is counting on you to make the right call. Petrov trusted himself, he reported the satellites detection to his superiors, but crucially he did so as a false alarm. And then as Wired Magazine puts it, he hoped to how he was right. Now thankfully, he was, but do you think many of his countrymen colleagues or superiors all saw it the same way? Of course not. Of course not. Petrov himself said he received an official reprimand for making mistakes in his logbook on September 26 1983. Yet, keep in mind if he would have launched if he wouldn’t have gone with his gut here. We may not be here today, there are many articles that say we all owe our lives to this individual. Now what sad is with that perceived kind of how his decision was perceived, which I mean to show you there’s no objective truth in this world, right? Like if he would have launched the missiles when when America in fact, had not, we would have been on the brink of nuclear destruction. But he didn’t, right. So like he was reprimanded. Still, he died on May 19, at age 77, in a suburb outside Moscow. And according to news it he had long since retired and was living alone. news of his death in the area apparently went unrecognized at that time. Now, that’s not a Hollywood ending for Petrov. But do you think in this case, being light superseded the potential annihilation of human of the human race?


You know, and remember, extreme examples like this highlight elemental truth, you can’t run from this as the listener, none of us can and say, Well, an example like this isn’t warranted. Because day to day, the stakes aren’t this big. Yeah, I mean, tell that to people that have to make decisions that impact anywhere from one to 1 million families. The bottom line is this story should show you that sometimes, doing the right thing involves doing nothing at all. And I think that’s something that sometimes people need to hear. And the cultural context comes to mind here as well. Because when we think about perception and whether somebody is liked or whether their decisions are agreed upon a base a researcher had a 1985 article and they were Some other researchers in this as well, that talked about perceptions, and they use broad categories here. And I don’t know that this is always useful, but I want to give you information.


The leadership literature says there are going to be people who are allocentric, meaning they define themselves or their identity in terms of the in group in which they belong. More, so they’re more likely to view the actions of leadership as being more desirable and effective. To the extent they focus on what is good for the group, rather than individual self interests. So we think about the Soviet Union during that time, right? And still like that, I mean, but then especially like, that’s heavy communism, which is the epitome of group based goals and that collectivism. So you he was around a lot of people that really define as allocentric this is what’s good for Mother Russia, this is what’s good for the USSR. But he especially being a part of that team didn’t do what a Pico is allocentric. In contrast, what the researchers called idiocentric  view, they view the individual as having primacy over in group goals. So in this case, Stanislav Petrov going with his gut, right, which was an individual decision that took primacy over in group goals of if they wanted to fire those missiles, and retaliation, if somebody wanted to do something else if, if they didn’t want to go with his gut, and they took away all individualism, from it something that I know really well, having been hospitalized, I wasn’t involved in nuclear type situations. But for me, I have long documented this, you know, it was this one size fits all approach that led to me, kind of trying to change things in this space, I was looked at as the same as every other patient, we were all given the same treatment. And that that is a manifestation of how we attack a lot of things in life, we tend to just think, hey, everybody fits a mold. They don’t the individual matters. And this is also talked about when you consider the background of people like Frederick Winslow Taylor and industrialization. That’s a prime example of how certain contexts impact behaviors and perceptions


There, was a period when the development of the assembly line that any kind of individuality would slow things down, it would make things worse, you know, but now you look at society. And there’s large amounts of individual expression, right? Everybody’s got a social media account. But the point is, is to take perception further and to look at historical context. And just remember, some people are going to view the decisions you make through an allocentric lens. Meaning was it something that they agree with, because it looks to feed the in group goals, or anidiocentric  lens? Did it seem like agree with you because you know, you’re you’re speaking more to the individual goals of an organization, IDEO Centrix, are more motivated to really satisfy self interest and personal goals. And that happens whether the expense of group interests or not. So you could easily look at this as Petra being more IDEO centric in this. And you know, some of this appears who reprimanded him having more of an Alice centric type view, regardless, so I’m going to take a beat here, you know, the other thing that wanting to be liked can lead to is you not being willing to have difficult discussions. And this plays hand in hand with the importance of communication. People have trouble being assertive when they’re too worried about being liked. And leaders are going to have to assert themselves. Regardless of whether you need to provide constructive criticism to somebody you mentor or somebody you’re leading, give somebody a wake up call, kind of a respectful kick in the butt, having to mediate a dispute between friends or engaging in an heated business negotiation. These are all things that you’re going to have to deal with at some level on your job. And if you’re like, Oh, well, you know, I don’t really have to deal with business negotiations. While you might ask for a raise, or you might ask for a cell phone provider to lower your bill. Remember, these don’t all have to be massive global states. But you do have do these people engage in discussion and conflict and negotiations every day, because we all need resources. 


So our daily conversations and the things that we’re willing to talk about, and what’s okay and what’s not, okay, is not only largely determined by our own self concept, and our skill level, but also what we’ve talked about before on the podcast as the Overton Window, something that you can, it’s really a term given to this idea that there’s this bandwidth of topics, which are generally perceived to be okay to discuss in society and others that are taboo. You know, there’s certain times in human history when sex physical intercourse was something that was taboo to talk about, that wouldn’t fit within the Overton window. And we know that there’s certain dinner tables where politics or religion are not to be discussed, whatever. The Overton Window is constantly growing and shrinking dependent on the context in which you’re a part of. So when people are so worried about being liked, they won’t expose themselves to a wider array of discussions, they won’t put themselves in these situations where their perspectives are going to be stretched. They don’t even really want to hear the other side out. And that all shrinks the Overton window and that keeps us from growing. I mean, today we are by and large, having to have much bigger Are conversations about a wide array of subjects, many of which are sticky. But if we don’t engage and train for these things, we’re going to be in trouble. And that was something I remember somebody asking, Hey, why do you use role playing and improv at your workshops? You know, isn’t that playing make believe. And I just remember saying, like, tell me this, you know, if you’re not going to engage in some form of role playing or communication training, what will you do to get better at those things? Like how do you get better at preparing for some of life’s biggest moments? You know, especially when lawyers do mock trials, and people do conflict resolution things within the FBI all the time. I think a lot of times coaches and everyday people in general forget that like, just because you’re not doing a hostage negotiation doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t practice learning more about how you might come across during difficult interactions and learning more about how you can mitigate situations where what you’re trying to say, even if it’s supremely helpful, is perceived as the exact opposite


So you think about this, each and every action or reaction that somebody has, including ourselves, is filtered by not just perceptions and interpretations, but specifically to your roles, your capabilities, the relationships you have at work, if you hear somebody got a raise, and that person’s in the same kind of area, you are, you’re gonna think well, at the expense of what I didn’t get a raise, or maybe you did, is somebody moving past you? Are they from a different department? Are they from animation, and now you think that what you do, because for other people have gotten raises in that in that area, is discredited? You know, but they’re going to think about these things, the relationships we have at work outside of work, their own drives, emotions, and obstacles are also going to color their perceptions of you. And, you know, this is why there’s been this tremendous void and more than 50 years of leadership research, since the majority of leadership models out there, that state hey, here’s what makes a leader effective, here’s what doesn’t, we’re solely focused on leader behaviors themselves, as opposed to looking at it through that broader lens.


So think of this to bring it home. As you would parenting. parenting styles differ wildly, not only amongst cultures, but also within regions of the same country. And not only within regions of the same country, but neighborhood or even the same family, since each child’s personalities and preferred method of communication. And their needs are going to be different. You know, I have a friend who has a child that has special needs, he’s gonna have to parent that individual differently than somebody that doesn’t based on the malady that they’re dealing with. There’s going to be people that have different behavioral problems within those families. So if we were to label only one form of parenting, the right form, and the most likely one to make us liked and accepted, regardless of considering the context, we would be leaning upon a tremendous amount of short sightedness, you have to look big picture and realize that your decisions personally and professionally will never be universally agreed upon. And the more you’re freaked out about that, the less you’re going to grow from a communication standpoint, and the less you grow there, the less you grow as a leader, once again, please go back and listen to episode 207. For more on perception, because it is part and parcel with understanding what great communication and effective leadership look like, they cannot be answered those things cannot be addressed in the absence of robust knowledge about perception. 


Okay, so why do we want to be light? Why do we behave like we do? What can be done about all of this spread of you’re saying that, okay, trying to be like, does this it does this it makes this where it’s, it makes that worse? Get on with it? Well, just like we always have to explore if we want to solve an issue, whether that is an issue societally, whether that’s trying to deal with a medical issue, we have to look at the pathogenesis. Why do we want to be liked? Now, don’t worry, I’m not going to go into some Freudian analysis here. Plus, there’s a reason I referenced all those previous episodes about drives. And, everything else. I go way more in depth on these things that are in our live workshops, and many of our courses, I’m not trying to upsell anything, I’m just letting you know, it’s not, this would be like a five podcast series if I was going to try to make that. 


But when we consider this category, I think back to a clip of the American version of the office, where regional manager Michael Scott, who of course was played by Steve Carell gives his answer to an off camera question. And they said, Do you need to be liked? And his quote, Michael Scott’s quote was, Do I need to be liked? Absolutely not. I like to be liked. I enjoy being liked. I have to be liked. But it’s not like a compulsive need to be light. Like my need to be praised. I remember reading the comments under this. It’s somebody in YouTube, but this is every boss I’ve ever had ever and it had like 1000 likes. So I thought there is humor in that. But our desire to be liked has evolutionary precedent. If we look at Maslow’s hierarchy, which you know, right above kind just the base level is of course categories related to love and belonging, esteem, and self actualization. So if we look at love and belonging according to Maslow, you know we want to feel loved and accepted, and that need includes both romantic relationships as well as ties to friends and family members. It also includes our need to feel like we belong to a certain social group, and that encompasses both feelings of being loved and liked towards others. Now, since Maslow’s time, researchers have continued to explore how love and belonging impacts well being, you know, for example, having social connections or high social capital is related to better physical health and conversely, feeling isolated, right when we have unmet belonging needs has a negative negative consequences for health and well being the most cruel thing you can do to somebody is social isolation. 


And within this is, is esteem. Our esteem needs involve the desire to feel good about ourselves. According to Maslow esteem needs include two components, the first being self confidence, and then feeling good about oneself. Oh, sorry, that’s all one. The second component is all about feeling valued by others. So we want self confidence, we want to feel good, but we also want to feel valued by others. And as you can imagine, these two are linked when we feel our achievements and our contributions have been recognized by other people. like that is when people’s esteem needs are met. And this is really the tie in of burnout, which I’ll talk about a little later. But this ties back directly to social rewards. If we look at Christina moslem, somebody who has championed the burnout literature over the years, one of the reasons most people feel burnout, which I would say is the tertiary consequence, not that they’re in any particular order of wanting to be liked, right, we said you’re going to make poor decisions, we said that you’re going to not be as skilled in difficult discussions if you don’t avoid them entirely. But you’re more likely to burn out if you have this desire to be liked. Because in these, what we call the succumbing six, but what Maslow talks about as the predictors of burnout, one of those avenues is reward. And within that literature, this isn’t people getting paid enough or anything like that. This is it’s not about salary and benefits, rather social rewards. Are people recognizing your value, your contributions, your skill, do they see you as a true coach, a true leader, somebody that’s for them? Are your efforts going completely unrequited. That is so tied into our esteem, as is another aspect of of the predictors of burnout that Maslow talks about? Control? You know, do we want when we’re so worried about being alight, we lack control which they define in the burnout literature’s the degree of autonomy and discretion, you have over not just what you do, but how you do it. Do you feel micromanaged? Do you feel judged? Are you asked to perform unethical tasks? Are you in impossible situations? So you can see how are being overly concerned about being light can lead to this never ending rabbit chase of trying to chase social rewards, which then can lead if all these things are unmet to feelings of in efficacy, emotional exhaustion, and cynicism, the three predominant areas that comprise burnout. 


So, you know, then it of course, goes into self actualization, self actualization, part of Maslow’s hierarchy, why do we want to be liked, you know, that that’s all about feeling fulfilled, it’s gonna look different for everybody, for one person that might involve helping others for another, it might involve achievements in an artistic or creative field, it just means that you’re doing what you believe you were meant to do. The popular word for that now is ikigai, right, which I believe is a Japanese term. And, you know, achieving self actualization according to Maslow, and many research is relatively rare. And examples of these individuals that are in their view are people that have really gone through hell and back, you know, you have Abraham Lincoln and you have Albert Einstein, you have other people that are mentioned by and large people, guys, people that if you study folks like Abraham Lincoln, if you study, you know, people like Martin Luther King, if you go into it, and a great book for this is a first rate madness, you’ll actually find that not only were many of these people not always well liked, they were often very depressed. They had very dark backgrounds, they doubted themselves. Some people could even tolerate being around them. But it was the fit for their characteristics and accordance to their context that allowed them to have success. 


So in short, when it comes to this, why we want to be liked, we have this strong innate desire for belonging, control, predictability, respect, and the like. It makes us just feel like we’re on a path we should be on. And it answers so many of those questions that we wonder at night, am I doing all I can? Am I doing what I’m capable of doing Am I actually making a difference and impacting change? The irony is that the pursuit of that gets us away from these things, since somebody wants again, cannot self actualize without being themselves. And I have to constantly tie this in for you guys, because a big reason leadership and coach development is broken, is because it’s not addressing real issues at the level of the individual and the chaotic contexts. When you’re so busy trying to pretend to be somebody else, you’re not ever going to be able to lead to be like in the most effective way, and you’re absolutely not going to find where you’re meant to be. Because you’re wearing a mask, you’re always worried about this social stigma. So it’s like Howard Roark said in The Fountainhead, he was, you know, if you’ve read it, and even if you haven’t, he was accused of being a bad architect due to what they called selfishness regarding his design principles. And he said, you know, to be selfish, you actually have to have a self. And the author Ayn Rand also prompted me to pause when I read in one of her books, hell is said to be paved by good intentions is this because we have never learned to distinguish which intentions constitute the good. Now there’s something there. When people want to be liked, it’s because they want to please everybody, they want to help everybody good intentions. And we’ve all heard that hell is said to be paved by and this isn’t there’s no religious context here. I’m not getting into that. But she also makes a great point is it because we’ve never learned to distinguish which intentions constitute the good, guys, that’s everything. My next book is about how there’s misunderstanding of things like power literacy, and understanding, influence, and even ethical uses of what manipulation, we often look at these things that are bad and evil. And really, we just don’t understand them well enough, and virtue but can become vice as well. Recently on Twitter, I remember somebody telling me they believe that they never ever, ever believe a lie of any kind is warranted. And that’s okay, if you believe that, but just understand you’re better as my friend Greg Adamson says, You better have the cleanest past in the world, and you better be very secure in your future. If you think that any form of ally, regardless of context, is a display of dishonesty has, you got to be able to hold yourself to that same standard. 


Another thing that is way more important than being liked way, like something more important than being liked is, are you gonna do the things you ask others to do. And I don’t mean you have to walk every single path with them. You guys know what I mean by that? Are you a person of action. So, point being, you know, just because a great deal people agree on a subject or like someone doesn’t mean that it was the right decision, or they’re a great leader. That’s why you have to have such a group of diverse thinking individuals around you to a point there as well. You want to create dissent, so that you can think of alternative perspectives, just like Amazon has an empty chair, or they used to rumors, how it used to be told, they keep an empty chair in the boardrooms, so that they’re always keeping an eye on what the customer might think. But too many conflicting voices lose sight of the main goal. And that just goes back to my parenting point earlier. Those styles vary. Most parents partake in the act of parenting itself, because they want their kids to live fulfilling, happy, healthy lives. 


So you just got to be careful for getting on that carousel. When people are worried about being like, they’re not going to be honest about who they are. And that’s where they’re never going to reach self actualization and long term trust is sacrificed. 


From a metaphor standpoint, you know, I can’t help but like in this term that I learned recently called kayfabe. And that is a term that speaks to pre scripted events of pro wrestling. More specifically, it is about the portrayal of staged events within the industry as real or true and you know, somebody smashes a chair over somebody’s head or somebody does that, oh, man, they just ended up on the top rope and now they’re getting body slammed. So specifically, kayfabe is about the portrayal of competition, rivalries, relationships between people as being genuine. And as a matter of fact, it’s a codeword of sorts for any act meant to ensure the presence of reality was genuine. Now isn’t there irony here since that rumor, like a sense of the rumor is that the etymology of that term kayfabe isn’t something esoteric like what I mentioned prior with ikigai there’s no like cool story of Japanese heritage and blah, blah, blah. This apparently originated in Pig Latin for be fake. kayfabe be fake. And the similarities of why I’m taking you down this rabbit hole is a goal of a leader isn’t to maintain face be fake, or keep some kind of persona so that they can placate the people around them. It should be actual authenticity, which requires sticking to your guns, or at the very least having firm beliefs loosely held and being open to change but unwilling to assert at times. You know, and so I think about that whenever I hear people that just kind of give answers that they know are the most agreeable answers in the room. And sometimes people write books over things that they just know is going to be a safe topic and it’s going to sell like the endless market for positivity at all costs or anything else. You know, that’s their version, the leadership version of kayfabe is orchestrated in authenticity. That’s really meant to kind of keep a veil over people’s eyes, when we should be diving into more difficult situations and conversations that help us self actualize, and thus become better leaders. 


To go further down that just a bit, put a cap on the kayfabe thing, Rolling Stone describes it in the following way. It’s a highly orchestrated physicality with spectacular effort. And it’s meant to preserve the gladiatorial showmanship and wrestling, a kind of nightly Coliseum reenactment scaled down for the masses, punched up with modern melodrama that heightened timeless tensions between hero and villain.


Think about that. And that was from you know, like, when you think of people that orchestrate their appearance, whether it’s I’m a go hard kind of individual or I’m the supremely empathetic, transformational, open hearted individual, whatever they’re showing, right? There’s scaling that based on just this desire to fit in, as opposed to the desire to just be what you need to be for the context of that moment. And to do that consistently. Because that’s the biggest thing is you have to have consistency in what you do. Because if you don’t going back to these predictors of burnout and how this ties in that also, we’ll get into the six predictors of fairness and values. You know, if you feel like you can’t make the tough decisions, because you’re gonna make everybody angry, or somebody’s not gonna like it, that is akin to feeling gate kept, which is a huge part of the burnout component of fairness, you feel like you run into glass ceilings, you can’t even make the decision you need to, because they might be outdated. And this is a big issue. And within values. I mean, that’s,  plain and simple.


So, when we look at I know we’re skipping around here a little bit, but when you look at the predictors of burnout, being workload control, reward, community fairness, and values, if you’re somebody that just wants to be pleasing others at all time, your workload is going to be off, because you’re going to be doing the kind of work that you need to do just to placate others and be looked at a certain way, which isn’t going to be commensurate necessarily with the work that you want to do. So you’re going to be overloaded by the wrong things. Control we talked about, you’re gonna feel like you have no autonomy because, you’re gonna feel micromanage and you’re worried about being judged. Reward, you’re constantly seeking the reward of others, a social approval of others, community, your relationships in the workplace really are going to suffer, because you might be 10 feet from somebody, but also 1000 miles from them. If you’re trying to be liked 10 feet, they’re right next to you, the proximal distance isn’t much, but you’re gonna really feel like you don’t really know that person and they don’t know you because you’re not able to be yourself, or at least a version of yourself that’s appropriate for that workplace fairness and values. So I just want you to remember this. And if you guys have my course valued, you have all those slides, you have details about burnout. If you don’t we have a whole what’s the word? I’m looking for this how you know, it’s live, we have a whole podcast on it, just look to one of the earlier episodes I mentioned to you. 


Alright, so wrapping it up, guys. What is the solution? We’ve said it a few times except a few things. Leadership isn’t about being liked. If anything, it’s about just being respected. And I mentioned leaders like Winston Churchill, Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and countless others. Were not only perceived to be unlikable, or dreadful to be around at some of the time, many were depressed and constantly fighting a wide variety of internal demons and even hate from public angles. Now, you might say, hey, well, Brad, I’ve heard you in previous things, talk about task and relation oriented outcomes and leadership. Now, I’ll be brief here, when they looked at when the literature looks at effective leaders, they tend to look at things through a variety of outcomes, did somebody get the job done task outcome? How do people feel about that job or that individual relations outcome? Now, it’s not either or, when you need people that feel good, true buy in true commitment and true trust is when people feel good about what was being asked of them what they had to do, and the individuals involved. That’s where you’d see high task and relations oriented outcomes. Right. So I just think it’s important to know that that too, is not a dichotomy where you either have to be great at getting things done or great at building relationships, to be the type of person who can create change and help people. You first have to be the type of person who can get things done period bottom line. You know, that’s, that’s the reality. So you have to have both of those. And inherently, they’re going to have to skew different ways at times, you know, some people are going to be mad, you know, because they’re not sure of who they are, what they believe in with your decisions. Many of us don’t even know how to express our needs trust others are self disclose. So how could we possibly expect others to make sense and appease what is in our heads even if we can’t. So that is why sometimes you’re gonna have to skew to be more task oriented, and not always make people happy. Be consistent in who you are. 


I’m gonna read as we start to close the entire episode a little bit from the ride of a lifetime, which is by former Disney CEO, Bob Iger. And I thought it was great, and it highlights that point. Now, this piece is from his book, and it’s about a former boss of his name Roone Arledge, and it goes into this task and relations piece and how you’re not always going to be able to assuage it. So the rest of these words are Bob bikers. There were people at ABC Sports who lived in fear of a ruin turning on them. And as a result, they avoided taking risks or sticking their necks out too far. I never felt that way. But I could see it in others, and I understood where it came from. He was a capricious boss. And over time, capriciousness takes a huge toll on staff morale, one day, he would make you feel like you were the most important person in the division. And remember, that would be a relations oriented outcome, the next he would deliver withering criticism or put a knife in your back for reasons that were never quite clear. That speaks back to not everybody’s always going to have the context, not everybody is going to be privy to the decisions you have to make and why you have to make them. He had a way of playing people off each other. And I could never tell if it was a purposeful strategy or a function of his personality. For all of his immense talent and success. Rune was insecure at heart. And the way he defended his own insecurity was to foster it in the people around him. Oftentimes, it worked in its way, and it made you work that much harder to please Him. But there were times he drove me so crazy, I was sure I was going to acquit to quit. But I wasn’t alone. In thinking of this. I didn’t quit though, I was able to make peace with the way rune exercise is authority to be motivated by the good, and be and not be too personally wounded by the bad. Now it helps that I was naturally resilient, I think, and working for room made me more. So that’s another reason guys to pause for a moment, it is important to not always try to please somebody constructive criticism makes us more resilient, is necessary and makes people face up and have some accountability to these things. These are huge, these are huge issues. 


I prided myself on working hard, especially in a place where so many of the people around me, were better educated, and were from more sophisticated backgrounds, it was important to me to know that when it came down to it, I could outwork anyone else. And I was so focused on that much more than I was the vicissitudes of runes, moods. So when you think about that, you know that kind of lends credence into some more of these pieces of how we all even have situational mentors, even people that don’t make you happy and that you don’t like because I urge you to think back now, of people you worked with you worked for that maybe you didn’t like, but damn, they taught you a lot. It reminds you that excellence and fairness don’t always have to be mutually exclusive. But that not everybody’s gonna perceive them as such. Because there’s times where I didn’t get treated fairly. But that made me have to take more accountability to take control the situation and grow as a leader. And that’s the ultimate job of a leader not to spoon feed, yeah, not to spoon feed anybody not to save them. But to help bring a greater resilience out of them, guys, that’s what I did for 15 years. training, strength and conditioning, to me was nothing more than a tool to teach people about what they were capable of. I had to sometimes do what might look like externally, a damaging unpleasant thing to somebody to bring about a better result. They were sore, they might have 200 kilograms on their back, if you actually looked at what was going on in their body, when strength training, it was pure trauma, much like my father who had to have shoulder surgery, right, they had to go in and do some very unpleasant things to the body to be able to bring about a more pleasant result. I remember watching my own, like watching videos of the back surgery I was going to have back in 2015. And that I keep pointing back to this medical analogy because when we want to be light, we’re not willing to get in there and do the dirty work right? Whether that is perform surgery, apply strain, put some accountability on other people necessary to help people emerge to create more conducive fit within that environment. And that’s why you’ve got to get comfortable being uncomfortable not being liked, and callous yourself by constantly putting skin in the game, you have to now you can meta communicate, meaning you set expectations, you can be consistent, but you and you can always appease everybody, but you can’t acknowledge them. 


So you know one other aspect with this, I think verbally that helps is Bob Iger went on to say, you know, it’s a tricky thing, moving people to your side, and enlisting their enthusiastic engagement. Sometimes it’s worth talking through their resume, sometimes it’s worth sorry, talking through their reservations and patiently responding to their concerns. Other times, you need to simply communicate that you’re the boss, and you want this done. It’s not that one approach is nice, and that one isn’t, it’s just that one is more direct and non negotiable. And it just comes down to what you believe is right for the moment, when a more democratic approach is useful, both getting the best outcome and building morale. And when you have to have enough certainty, in your opinion, that you’re willing to be an autocrat, even in the face of disagreement. 


So I hope that you know, those of you who feel like they are constantly told they need to act, like the living embodiment of the Self Help section rejoice, right, a new strategy has been unearthed. You know, we all wear masks. And but like, you need to understand that benevolence can be more offensive than aggression. And at sometimes when you’re wanting to be liked, people are so concerned with being nice, as opposed to being honest, that, you know, these fake interactions just course through the veins of our daily relationships, we need people who are not scared to just be themselves. Well, I mean, the truth is, most people may no longer know how to be themselves. With all the judgments in society, it’s getting to the point where when you’re told not to talk to strangers, you wonder if that’s why people don’t go inside their own heads. You know, and we get so confused when we meet somebody that doesn’t fit neatly into our own kind of idea of what is good or what is bad. And you can’t dwell on that. 


So this is my take the three biggest pieces of why you should not worry about being liked, you should not worry about being lied to, because it can hurt your decision making it can hurt your relationships and the conversations you’re willing to have. And ultimately, whether you know it or not, it will lead to burnout. Sometimes you’re going to have to just move forward, you are going to have to understand that self actualization, self awareness comes first. And that can only come if you have a little bit of selfishness and you’re willing to stand alone, that is enhanced by social agility. Right? Once you’re more self aware. And once you can manage your own expectations for yourself and the realities, you know that that gives way to so much social agility where now you’re able to communicate more effectively, you’re not mincing words. You’re not trying to hedge everything you say. And when you do that you’re of greater service to others, and you’re able to better scale your impact. 


Let me know what you guys think. I don’t expect you all to disagree with me. This was a pretty heady concept to cover. I’m going to be putting more and more out on this. So make sure that you’re subscribed to our newsletter at I can’t wait to hear your feedback and I’ll talk to you soon.

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