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Lead with sugar, not salt

Enlist allies by sweetening your personality

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in Leaders & Managers

If you asked your peers and employees for words that describe you, what would they say? If engaging, genial, warm, friendly and enthusiastic come up the most, you’re probably a strong leader. If calculating, stubborn, loner, demanding, cold and boring head the list, you’re in trouble.

The more others like you, the greater your influence over them. Here’s how to upgrade your likability and lead more effectively:

Stay on the sunny side. Smiling signals support and shows you appreciate others, enjoy their company and are eager to listen. If smiling doesn’t come naturally, practice in a mirror. That may sound silly, but we hear from many professionals, from attorneys to teachers, who’ve perfected a listening pose that features a genuine smile.

Limit your complaints. Every time you bellyache, you risk driving away positive people. And they’re the ones you want on your side. Vent safely. Write what irritates you in a diary so that no one has to hear it. If you must grumble aloud, allow yourself just one gripe a day.

Prolong the laughs. When colleagues tell a funny story, wait for the laughter to subside before you change the subject. Reflect the speaker’s delight. Don’t be so focused on work that you cast gloom over the conversation.

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