In this Quick Military Education activity we look at leadership versus likership. Most people desire to be liked: it's human nature. We feel better when people like us. One of the biggest challenges of leadership is making the right decisions; even if that means that people won’t like us because of the decision we have made. If you are making decisions primarily so that people will keep liking you, you may be making the wrong decisions and losing respect at the same time.

Leadership takes courage. You don’t want people to support you only because they like you. You want support because they respect you, they respect what you are doing and the decisions you are making.

Earlier this year (2021) Robert Gibson submitted an article to The Cove - Leadership vs Likership. While the article looks more into sub-unit command, it does consider both sides of the argument. Have your team take a read of the article and consider its key points. As an 'other rank' it can be difficult; especially when you are newly promoted to Lance Corporal or Corporal. You most likely live in the lines or a rental property with your mates and all of sudden you are promoted and now their leader, which will require you to make tough decisions that may mean your mates won't like you as much.

The film clip below is from Master and Commander. Captain Jack Aubrey of the HMS Surprise, counselled a subordinate when a sailor showed disrespect towards the midshipman. The incident happened on deck, in front of everyone, without being corrected by the midshipman. He tells the Captain that he has tried to be 'liked' by the crew but was not successful in obtaining many friends. Captain Aubrey replied, 'You can't make 'friends' (with the crew), they'll despise you in the end. Nor do you need be a tyrant. It’s leadership they want, strength, respect'.



Discussion Points

  1. How can a desire to be liked hamper good leadership?
  2. If you led your mates, would you find it difficult to do the right thing if they did the wrong thing?
  3. What leadership qualities do you want from your Section Commander / Platoon Commander?
  4. When does friendship within the chain-of-command become problematic in Army?
  5. When have you have seen a supervisor try to be more of a mate than a leader?


Reflection is an important element of learning. It allows us to consider theories or events, and understand how they might apply to us. One way to conduct reflection is using the 'what, so what, now what' process. In this instance, this process could be used like this:

  • WHAT did I learn from considering this scenario?
  • SO WHAT am I going to do about what I’ve learned?
  • NOW WHAT does that learning mean for my own practice as a military professional?

Concluding comments

This QME is designed to help junior commanders to develop and deliver PME in their unit environment. If you have feedback or suggestions for improvement to this activity (for example; readings or reference material, alternate discussion points or delivery method), please contact The Cove Team via or leave a comment below this QME.