The problem of being likable seems like a high-school issue, but it's something you must face as an entrepreneur. Being likable is part of being a leader. It is possible to lead while being disliked, but it makes things difficult and is not likely to last.
It's important to remember that more often than not, leadership is less about your ability and more about your character. Innate characteristics such as intelligence and knowledge often pale in comparison to positivity and humility. Being a likable leader is about your emotional intelligence. Fortunately, that's something that is under your control. Here are a few things you can do to make yourself more likable and a better leader.
1. Be Humble
There's nothing quite like arrogance to make people dislike you. A likable leader doesn't act prideful or as though they are better than anyone else. Instead of power tripping or abusing their position, likable leaders see it as a way to make good changes and make themselves more accountable.
Humility is a tough thing to learn, but it can be done. You can start by monitoring the way you think. Every time you notice yourself assuming that people are dumber or lesser beings than you, stop that thought process. It helps to remember that your current position is a matter of fortune, if not outright luck, and a cruel twist of fate can take it all away if you're not careful.
2. Form Connections
It's easy for employees to feel dehumanized, and even easier for entrepreneurs to inadvertently cause those feelings. There's so much on your plate that paying attention to people can seem like something you can cut out. Unfortunately, that's not the case. The less attention you pay to your employees, the less likable you'll be.
Take the time to talk to people and when you do, listen to them. Put your phone away and focus on who you're talking to. If you have to attend to something, apologize and remember to get back to them later. Make sure they understand that you're leaving the conversation for an important reason. Be human.
3. Have Integrity
Your likability as an entrepreneur goes beyond words. People will judge you according to your actions, and will judge accordingly if your actions don't match up to your words. All the charm in the world won't help if you don't walk the walk.
Don't make promises you can't keep, even if it'll stop the complaints for a time. People remember promises, and they'll take note if you don't live up to them. Assure them and say what you need to say, but if you promise anything, be prepared to follow through.
4. Be Approachable and Available
People can't like you if they don't get to interact with you. While your schedule might be overflowing, you still need to take time to meet with people and to make yourself available to their needs. It doesn't necessarily mean you need to walk out to the water cooler with a "The Boss is In" sign, only that you make sure everyone knows how to contact you and when you're available.
How you do that depends on your preferences and context. If you're comfortable with it, you can have an open-door policy when it comes to walk-ins. Or, take the modern approach and use communication tools like Slack so an employee can send you a direct message in real-time. If you can make the time, hold weekly feedback meetings to allow people to express their concerns to you in a forum.
Some people start off more likable than others, and that's OK. It doesn't mean you don't have a shot as an entrepreneur. All it means is you have to work on it. Stay positive and keep the doors open for employees to come in and talk to you. Walk the walk. It'll take some effort, but the benefits are worth it.