Servant Leadership Workplace-Pleaser

Be a Leader, Not a Pleaser

“Everyone likes him. He must be a good leader.”

I heard a colleague say that once in the workplace.

And when I heard it, I objected.

I didn’t object because the guy in question was a bad leader. I objected because the statement isn’t true.

Just because everyone likes you doesn’t mean you’re a good leader.

In fact, if everyone likes you, it might suggest you’re more of a pleaser than a leader.

Which – if people are counting on you to lead – could be problematic.

I’ve seen this phenomenon plenty of times in the workplace. I bet you have too: The person who confuses leading with pleasing. 

The pleaser tries to make everyone happy, avoids necessary conflict, can’t give critical feedback, never makes enemies and doesn’t cultivate dissent.*

In acting that way, the pleaser ain’t leading. The pleaser is merely . . . well  . . . pleasing.

Unlike a pleaser, a leader doesn’t forego the chance of higher team performance in favor of good team feelings.

In my experience, some people are constituted as pleasers. By nature or nurture – that’s beside the point here. Pleasers are great to have around. As family, friends and colleagues. Indeed, pleasers can thrive in the workplace – particularly in direct customer service.

But in leadership?

Gotta’ be careful with that one.

Sometimes pleasing can become an excuse for poor leading – or worse, pleasing can be antithetical to leading.

Sorry folks, remember the saying: “If you want to make everyone happy, don’t be a leader. Sell ice cream.”**

Good servant-leaders know this.

Sure, servant-leaders want to please their followers and those they serve. No doubt about that!

But . . .

A good servant-leader never lets pleasing get in the way of leading.

What do you think? Have you seen pleasing get in the way of leading?

As always, we appreciate your views.



And don’t forget to download our latest ebook, Servant Leadership in the Workplace: A Brief Introduction. It’s free!


Check out these two:

“Servant-leaders Make Enemies”

“3 Ways to Approach Workplace Dissent”

** I just love that saying: “If You Want to Make Everyone Happy, Don’t Be a Leader. Sell Ice Cream”