Many years ago, Sally Field famously accepted her Oscar saying, “You like me,” she declared. “You really like me.” With the strong emphasis on the word really. Turns out what she actually said was, “I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me.” We probably misremember or misheard the quote, because it isn’t just actors who are primarily motivated by being liked, we all are. Psychologists say this misquote is so sticky because it exemplifies a central human need.
And, whether we are liked, impacts our ability to have long term, lasting, success. Likability is an essential component of EQ. Likability impacts the legacy we leave.
I am fascinated, particularly lately, with how this shows up in politics. Here in Chicago, our mayor nearly lost the last election, despite what he has accomplished, because lots of people, don’t like him. Our previous mayor was extremely popular. As a result, he could do things that people didn’t like (like swoop in and close an airport in the middle of the night, without any authority to do so), because people liked him, even if they didn’t always like what he did. The airport closing, by the way, turned out to be something the citizens of Chicago ended up liking because it became a lovely park and concert venue. And, our parks and the overall beauty of the city is part of Mayor Daley’s legacy.
Working with CEOs and executives, I observe the same phenomenon. The CEOs who, like Sally Field, are really liked, by their teams, get results. They get a pass when they make a mistake, especially when they own it and admit it. And more importantly, they get support when they want something to happen.
As we think about our own leadership, a question worth asking ourselves, perhaps daily:
What can I do today, to hone my EQ skills and increase my likability?