This edition of Professional Military Education (PME) provides a different perspective on the definition of Likership and aims to change the way we look at it. The article, Leadership vs Likership, discusses the role of being liked when leading and explores the idea of likership being a key component of leadership. 

Take a read through the article and re-form your own opinions of the word ‘likership’ and what you value in a leader. Think about what you have seen work and what you’ve seen fail in leaders. Also critically analyse the assertions contained within the text to determine what you agree and disagree with in the article. Be prepared to debate the pros and cons of being liked as a leader; in particular, the risks involved in ‘chasing likership’.

Next, watch this TedTalk on why good leaders make you feel safe. It explores the psychology behind why leaders are followed and uses a number of military examples.

Finally, decide whether or not you think it’s a good idea to re-define the term 'likership', a word which has typically been given a bad reputation as something to avoid at all costs in positions of leadership.

Want More?

For a look at likership from a different perspective, and for an understanding of how disliked, toxic leaders can still lead organisations to good results, read Great Results Through Bad Leaders: The Positive Effects of Toxic Leadership. This classic takes you through a case study of a toxic leader who was disliked in their organisation. Due to the ‘galvanising effect’ their leadership created amongst their staff, the team achieved great results. The teamwork created to work around the common enemy allowed the organisation to succeed in spite of the poor leadership displayed by the leader.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is your own definition of likership?
  2. When have you seen a leader ‘chase likership’ and what was the result?
  3. Do you agree or disagree with this new definition of likership and the premise of the article?
  4. What did you value most in a leader when you were a junior soldier? Compare it with what you value in a leader now, what has changed?
  5. Have you seen liked leaders lead poorly? Have you seen hated leaders lead well?
  6. How has the need for likership changed over the course of your career? Do you think leaders need to lead differently to how they did when you first joined the Army?
  7. Think about the best and worst leaders you’ve worked for and with. Consider how much you liked/disliked them and discuss how that correlated to how willing you were to follow them.
  8. Do you agree with the premise that if you are unable to be loved as a leader, you should use fear to lead, and do your best to avoid being hated? Do you agree with the idea that someone can be feared but not hated?
  9. What are your thoughts on using fear to generate followership?
  10. Do you think there is risk involved with leading too softly? What impacts may this have? Conversely, what are the impacts of leading too harshly?
  11. Do you agree that likership is a component of leadership?

Other Activities

If you enjoyed this activity, why not try the other PMEs available on The Cove?

Want more material? For JNCOs to conduct with their soldiers, here is a link to our Quick Military Education resources. For Junior Officers here is a link to our Junior Officer PME sessions.

Concluding Comments

If you have suggestions for improvements – additional readings or reference material, alternative discussion points, new delivery methods – or just wish to provide feedback, please contact The Cove Team via

Here are the Facilitator Notes for this PME.