"But I want people to like me," Roger said. I hear this all the time from leaders I coach when they're making unpopular decisions. And it makes sense. Who doesn't want to be liked?

The problem is when leaders are always nice in order to be liked. Being nice all the time means holding in negative feelings, tuning out your needs, quietly resenting others--and maybe occasionally exploding. It's hard for others to know what's really OK with you.

The best leaders are not always nice. Kind? Yes. Friendly? Sure. Compassionate? Definitely. But nice? No. Do not always be nice. Nice leaders want to be liked so much that they don't hold healthy boundaries. They avoid conflict and give in when they ought to take a stand.

Holding boundaries, having the hard conversations, and dealing with conflict are especially important skills for heart-centered, conscious leaders--what I call Amare love-powered leaders. They need to achieve a balance between showing their hard and soft sides, even when it's not perceived as nice. FYI, here's a manifesto on balanced love-powered leadership:

  • How does your desire to be liked affect your leadership style?
  • Does being nice sometimes compromise your effectiveness? 
  • Are you in balance?

5 Amare Ways to Not Be Too Nice

  1. Identify your beliefs about being nice. Fill in these blanks: "I learned that being nice is _____________." "When I am nice _____________." "Nice people _____________." Now ask yourself if these beliefs still serve your organization and highest self.
  2. Watch your nice patterns. Notice the situations in which you tend to be inauthentically nice. Write down: (a) what triggers you, (b) what story you made up about it, and (c) what might happen if you were authentic instead.  
  3. Find your right labels. Consider how you want your positive soft side to be described (other than "nice"). Caring? Warm? Thoughtful? Now consider how you want your harder side described. Strong? Direct? Resilient? Start to use these preferred labels to think about and describe yourself to others. 
  4. Take little steps and experiment. Play with being direct but not solicitous, authentic but not cold, all while still staying connected. Start simply with your texts and emails, looking at how you use emoticons and exclamation points.
  5. A culture of nice. Assess your organizational culture for how being nice is treated. Notice if it is conditional or expected at all times, rewarded or punished, and equitable at all levels. Notice other related behaviors, like dealing with conflict, too.

Being nice is nice, but it's not an effective leadership trait when overdone. Instead, respect your emotions, be honest, and keep healthy boundaries on your path to being an authentic, balanced, love-powered leader.