Let’s face it. Some people are hard to like. Sometimes the best thing we can say about another person is “Thank God she’s not on my team, and I don’t have to work with her.”  

Spending time with her is not easy. The way she behaves, the way she talks, her attitude – everything just gets on my nerves. But what if that unlikable person IS on my team? What if I am her leader, her coach or her parent?

Don’t Hire People You Don’t Like

Hiring good people, who have the character to do the right thing and get along with others is a critical step in avoiding the scenario above. I am a big proponent of hiring more than just experience or technical expertise.

Read more on hiring by clicking on the following blog title:

Talent Is Plentiful and Overrated

But the truth is, I didn’t always get to hire the people I led. I took over teams from other people and I went through multiple mergers where people were assigned to me. Plus, we don’t get to choose our family either. So what recourse do I have when I am the leader of someone I do not like?

Love Them

“Wait! Did Dave just say love them? This is the Army guy who talks about leadership right? “

Yes I said love them.

Love them even when you don’t like them.

I am talking about the verb form of the word love that relates to my actions. I may not feel much for the person I am called on to lead, but I still must lead them unselfishly.

Why do I use the word unselfishly? Because many times I can choose how I treat someone based on how I feel about them. As a leader, how I feel about a person is irrelevant. I need to do what is best for the individual no matter how I feel about them.

Notice the pronoun is a “I” in these statements above. As a leader or a parent, my role is not to get to do what I want to do. My role is to do what is best for the people I lead.

It is the Duty of a leader to act unselfishly and ignore his or her feelings. Is that easy? No! But….

Treating someone better than they deserve is never easy.

Click on the title to read a review of Joel Manby’s book Love Works.

A Leader’s Actions

How does a leader love someone they do not really like?

Here are some ideas:

  • Talk to her on breaks as much as you talk to the people you like.
  • Praise her. Do not ignore or gloss over her good performance.
  • Do not ignore her mistakes, just because you don’t want to spend time with her.
  • Ask her about her family or her weekend. Show an interest in who she is outside of work.
  • Have hard conversations with her when it is necessary.
  • Do as much to help her reach her goals as you would for anyone else.
  • Don’t give her any more slack than anyone else just because she may be difficult.

The Bottom Line:

A great rule of thumb when you have to lead someone who is not very likable is to treat them better than they deserve. That is a habit that anyone can form with practice. It may not be easy, but leadership is not easy.

Just like I should do with my children, I should always do what I think is best for them to include praise, correction, and discipline.

At different times in their lives, one child may be a lot easier to like than another one.  However, no one in their right mind believes that loving their child is optional even when they are being unlikeable.

The same goes for a leader as well.   We may not like someone we are leading, but we should love them through our actions.


Who do you not like at work that you need to lead with love?

Dave Anderson is coauthor of the Amazon Best-Seller Becoming a Leader of Character – Six Habits that Make or Break a Leader at Work and at Home with his father General James L. Anderson (USA Retired).
You can order Becoming a Leader of Character on Amazon by clicking here:
You can also find Becoming a Leader of Character at Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million and other retailers.