Do you like people?

A crowd of smiling, diverse cartoon facesSeriously. Do you like people?

Not just your friends. People, in general. Humanity, as a whole.

Of course there are specific people you don’t like, people who rub you the wrong way, people whose values, attitudes, or philosophies you don’t agree with.

But if you want to be a good leader, someone who inspires and motivates your team, you need a general sense of liking – and even enjoying – people. You need to be curious about who they are, what makes them do the things they do, what intrigues them, and how to recognize and reward them.

You don’t have to be an extrovert to like people. You don’t have to be a social butterfly, and you certainly don’t have to be the life of every party. (In fact, you probably shouldn’t be the life of every party if you really want to grow your career.)

Leadership means guiding, influencing, inspiring, and motivating, as well as correcting, instructing, and reprimanding on occasion. To do any of that effectively, in a way that creates trust and a willingness in your employees to follow, you need to have that basic liking for human beings in general – that fundamental interest in who they are and in their well-being.

I’ll add that you don’t need to like any of your employees in specific. It’s possible – and necessary (though challenging) – to like people in general, dislike a specific employee, and be a good, influential leader for that person as well as everyone else on your team.