Research Paper: Likeability and Management

Pages: 9 (2862 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Business - Management  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] It was a hollow likeability that indeed appealed to some. The fact that it could appeal to some, as it did at Enron, simply reinforces the idea that likeability be defined according to universal notions of rightness. Nonetheless, managerial success is still dependent upon both managers and employees identifying with such a universal. Highlighting Enron's case of inauthentic likeability is Kass's 1986 study, which states that likeability "is in itself a simplistic term because it assumes that all employees…view themselves by the same light," whereas in reality, some employees view "themselves as stewards of the public interest, while by contrast, their organizational compatriots [see] themselves as agents of the organization (36).

Contrasting examples of leaders who found managerial success through true likeability are plentiful. Lee Iacocca is one example. Iacocca was an expert at inspiring his "followers to perform beyond expectations while transcending self-interest for the good of the organization" (Avolio, Walumbwa, Weber 423). Iacocca manifested a desire to achieve a common good -- and that manifestation served as the foundation for his likeability. When Iacocca took over as head of Ford, his employees consistently performed "beyond expectations; he spoke the way they did, and did not put on "airs" or utilize a one-way communication flow. He showed his employees that he was in the trenches with him, that he cared about what they did, that he was there for them and expected them to be there for him. He showed flexibility with persons, but rigidity with principles. He encouraged innovation, true creativity, as the leaders of Enron desired to do, failing only because their goal did not include the common good but rather their own personal, individual good. Likeability, as Iacocca showed, is other-centered, not self-centered. This is the point that Chet Holmes makes again and again in The Ultimate Sales Machine. In order to sell a product to a client, you have to sell yourself, and in order to sell yourself, you have to be a person that another would want to invest time and money in. You have to become a friend, in the true sense of the word. That is why Holmes does not hesitate to introduce clients to his family, to vacation with them, to invest himself in their lives and get them to invest in his. It is part of the likeability factor. Before he died, Holmes was one of the most successful businessmen and motivational speakers in America.

As Bhargava states in Likeonimcs, "In order to be more believable and more trusted -- you need to be more likeable" (xviii). Bhargava supports this thesis with numerous examples of how managers transformed their businesses and workplace environments from lackluster failures to great successes. He cites a range of cases, from lard salesmen to NFL team owners to hotel managers in Mumbai.

Bhargava even considers the argument that success does not hinge on likeability. He points to Steve Jobs as an example of someone who succeeded, yet seemed "to be completely unlikeable" (xxx). Jobs was not the only unlikeable pioneer in Silicon Valley, Bhargava states. Larry Ellison was another. Bhargava explains their success this way: there is a difference between likeability and "being nice because of a human need to be liked" (xxxii). It is an important distinction to make in order to truly understand what likeability is and why Jobs and Ellison, two notoriously unlikeable guys, were, still, strictly speaking, likeable in the managerial sense. They did not need to be liked. They did not feel a need to get others to like them. That was not their goal. Their goal was to access ingenuity and produce great products. They were driven by a vision. They succeeded in getting others to embrace their vision by inspiring something in them, too. They coupled competence with authenticity. They were transparent in their offensiveness. They hid nothing about themselves. Their characters were evident. People had the choice to take them or leave them. They showed that likeability can be defined even more narrowly than has been done in this report -- that it can be understood simply as the ability to perform well, to fulfill one's duty. Jobs and Ellison performed well and did their duties as leaders: their "personalities" did not factor into the equation one way or another. What did factor into the equation was their ability to get others to latch onto their ideas because they were good ones. Thus, the likeability factor, with regards to these two men, depended more on their intellectual ability than it did on their ability to establish sympathetic personas.

In conclusion, this is the point that Bhargava makes -- along with Weaver, Elkind, McLean, Lewis, Holmes, and many others: to understand likeability, one must have a sense of universal goodness, which can be applied in many different ways, depending on particular contexts. However, that likeability has to be authentic -- it cannot be full of "false conviction" or be rooted in a likeable deviance of the Iago variety. It has to be rooted in ideas and actions that strive towards the common good, as Iacocca showed at Ford and as Bhargava's research has indicated. Likeability is other-centered, not self-centered. Managers who manifest a need to be liked are missing the point: the point is not about them -- but about others. What can they do for others? That is the question that motivated even Jobs and Ellison, two unlikeable men, who had very likeable ideas.

Memo: What I Learned

What I have learned through this research project is a number of things. As a writer, I learned that conveying ideas or making a point requires a nuanced approach, such as is provided by the Rogerian model of argumentation. I attempted to use this model in order to express the point that I wanted to make. It appeared to be a good model, one that set up a thesis, then gave room for possible rebuttals, and in the end found a kind of compromise solution. I believe I do this in my paper, ending as it does with an example of two unlikeable manager/leaders, who, yet, can be viewed as likeable in a way.

As a scholar, I learned that the more research one does, the better he comes to grasp his subject. I read widely and broadly when I approached this subject, looking at books such as Likeonomics, scholarly journals and articles, and real-life journalistic works, such as Lewis's The Big Short and Elkind and McLean's The Smartest Guys in the Room. Each piece shed new light and a fresh perspective on the subject, and it was my intention to bring together all of these aspects and fuse them into one new approach to how and why likeability is a factor in successful management.

Finally, as a thinker and reader, I learned that it is impossible to truly know what to think if you have not read all there is to read. Now, that may sound impossible, and it probably is, but one can certainly attempt to read as much as possible. Digesting it and understanding it, however, requires a certain perspective -- and what I learned is that adopting a good perspective is as important as collecting data. Perspective, like likeability, depends on a universal notion of rightness. Grasping that universal notion is, it seems, what is ultimately at stake in all things.

Works Cited

Avolio, B.J., Walumbwa, F.O., Weber, T.J. "Leadership: Current Theories,

Research, and Future Directions." Annual Review of Psycholog, 60 (2009): 421-29. Print.

Bhargava, Rohit. Likeonomics. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2012. Print.

Elkind, Peter; McLean, Bethany. Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room. NY: Penguin,

2013. Print.

Holmes, Chet. The Ultimate Sales Machine. NY: Penguin, 2007. Print.

Kass, H. "Whistleblowers and the Ethics of Stewardship: A Comment on Truelson." Dialogue 8.3 (1986): 36-45. Print.

Lewis, Michael. The Big Short. NY W.W. Norton and Company, 2011. Print.

Luthans, F. (1988). "Successful vs. Effective Real Managers." Academy of Management Executive 2.2 (1988): 127-132. Print.

Pink, Daniel. Drive. NY: Riverhead Books, 2011. Print.

Tourish, D., Hargie, O. "Communication Audits: Building World Class

Communication Systems." Handbook of Corporate Communication and Public Relations. UK:… [END OF PREVIEW]

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