Leading Up: Ability and Likability

Competence gets you in the room, character keeps you in the room.

Josh Denhart
3 minute read

It is very common in ministry to take personality tests and giftedness/aptitude tests. It can provide a great framework for understanding strengths and weaknesses.

But there is more to ministry than just our 'ability.' Did you know that you have an 'ability rating' and a 'likability rating?' That’s right. You may have an amazing 'ability' to get something done. However, your 'likability' also plays a vital role in how you can lead others and work in a team.

You need to have ABILITY, but you need to have LIKABILITY. Competence gets you in the room. Character keeps you in the room.

There is something beyond your ability to execute that plays a critical role in your ability to effectively lead up. Sure, you want to be known for getting the job done, but there is another side to the relationship coin. Are you a likable person? Are you someone that is easy to be around?

If you want people to 'GO ALONG' with your ideas, you need to 'GET ALONG' with your colleagues. Your ability to 'GET ALONG' will influence other people’s ability to 'GO ALONG' with you and your proposals.

Plotting Your Ability and Likability

I want you to envision a graph with four quadrants. The two main variables are 'ability' and 'likability.' You can be in one of four places on this graph. Let’s look at each:

Low Ability, Low Likability

This person drops balls, misses deadlines and is not dependable. To make matters worse, they are interpersonally hard to work with and often leave a wake of drama and trauma behind them. This type of person is very easy for the senior leaders to justifiably fire.

Low Ability, High Likability

It is hard to fire a person that is genuinely likable. We all have known someone who struggled with the job requirements, but they brought such a level of joy to the overall organizational culture that their poor-quality work was tolerated. Depending on the organizational culture, a beloved but poor performer might be retained for a season. Likability goes a long way.

High Ability, Low Likability

High performers often can be challenging to be around. Super-performers often elevate achievement over amicability. Driven people can see projects as paramount and the people they hurt as a distant second. They may have a wealth of wins but a wake of destruction behind them. Depending on the organizational culture, producers that cause people problems will be tolerated. Once again, however, there is a tipping point when interpersonal tension surpasses the value of accomplished tasks.

High Ability, High Likability

High and to the right is the most desirable space on our Ability/Likability graph. To 'Get 'Er Done' and yet 'Get Along' is a powerful combo. Here is the interesting thing: the ability to GET ALONG with others is the secret power of true ultra-achievers. Those who are highly likable can gather a team of willing people to help achieve great things. Proverbs 16:7 tells us 'When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.' It is often the likability factor that allows for exponential achievement.

Who is the dream employee? Who is the dream team member? It is someone who wins AND is winsome. High performers who have high likability are nearly unstoppable.

Psalm 37:5 exhorts 'Commit your ways to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.'

Where are you on the graph? Where would your peers place you on the graph? The good news — this graph is a living document and your future actions can, in fact, move in a positive direction. Commit your ways to the Lord.

After serving as a pastor for over 10 years, Josh Denhart transitioned his vocational energies toward Lead Ministry and KidMin Science. Josh is passionate about helping leaders (1) get organized, (2) stop the revolving door of volunteers and thus (3) prevent ministry burnout through Lead Ministry. Josh is an international speaker, author, course and curriculum creator. He is the founder of leadministry.com.

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