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I want everyone to like me. But I don’t need everyone to like me.

I’ve been wrestling with the above thought for weeks. I want everyone to like me. But I don’t need everyone to like me. Wanting everyone to like me, when issuing from a healthy place, speaks to winsomeness, attraction, and likeability. Our life should be a pleasant magnet that draws people in. On the other hand, needing everyone to like me reeks of insecurity and fear.

A significant number of leaders, whether they’re aware of it or not, struggle with people-pleasing. King Saul was the crown prince of this particular flaw. Chosen by God to be Israel’s first king, Saul had good looks, leadership skills, flashes of spirituality . . .  but he was painfully insecure. And his insecure tendencies led to an insatiable desire to be liked. His obsession ultimately resulted in string of bad decisions. Saul wanted everyone to like him—and was convinced he needed everyone to like him.

It’s easy to read about Saul and think “What a knucklehead!” He had God in his corner, the prophet Samuel on his side, and the vast majority of people he led thought he rocked. Yet his insecure, people-pleasing self, trumped it all.

Fast forward to the 21st century. People-pleasing-addicted leaders are found everywhere: in the business world, in politics, in education—and unfortunately—in the Church. And it begs the following questions: How do we increase our likeability (likeability is the ability to produce good emotions in others) without becoming addicted to people-pleasing? How can we want everybody to like us without needing everyone to like us? Comprehensive answers are outside the scope of this blog. But let me offer up four behaviors that will help you and me get started on the road to becoming a more secure person. Because the more secure you feel on the inside, the less hold people-pleasing will have on you.

Secure leaders let others have an opinion contrary to theirs

If you feel threatened when someone disagrees with you . . . you might be insecure. If you quickly dismiss your own opinion when someone disagrees with you . . . you might be insecure. Demanding everyone think exactly the same way you do about everything indicates insecurity. Being afraid to stand your ground when others disagree with you indicates insecurity. And insecurity fuels people-pleasing.

Secure leaders welcome help from others

Let’s use pastors as an example. If you can give of yourself to others freely, but struggle with receiving help from others . . . you might be insecure. People-pleasing leaders tend to be very image-conscious. They fear accepting help would tarnish their public persona. A secure leader understands he/she never outgrows the need to let trusted people speak into their life. Every pastor needs a pastor, a mentor, a coach. Secure leaders chase these relationships, because they know they’ll never reach full potential on their own.

Secure leaders can say “no”

If you struggle with telling people no . . .  you might be insecure. The inability (or outright refusal) to say no often has people-pleasing at its root. If you’re a people-pleaser, you’ll tend to overcommit. To allow other people’s expectations to set your agenda.  You’ll find yourself working on tasks others could (and should) do, and get distracted from doing the tasks only you can do. Saying no is part of being a good steward of your calling, time, and talent. What are the tasks only you can do—and are you prioritizing them accordingly? What are the tasks others can do—and why are those tasks still showing up on your to-do list? Secure leaders are not afraid of no. If you don’t learn when to say no, people-pleasing will run your life.

Secure leaders get their identity from God, not people

If you allow your sense of value to rest upon how people respond to your leadership . . .  you might be insecure. Secure leaders work from their identity, not for their identity. Your calling can never deliver what only God can: a lasting inner sense of value. When we look to people to make us feel worthwhile, we build on a shaky foundation. When we look to God to get our sense of value, we build on a rock.

King Saul ended up losing everything. One reason? Insecurity ran his life. He was a people-pleaser of epic proportions. We have no indication he ever asked God to help him overcome this character weakness. The good news is we are not Saul. We don’t have to repeat his mistake. If you’re leading an organization and struggle with insecurity/people-pleasing, ask God for help. He stands ready to assist. Invite trusted friends and mentors to speak into your life. They can help you get free from your people-pleasing addiction.

I’m curious about what you would identify as other signs of a secure leader. Take a minute and share your thoughts with me so we can learn together.

I’m rooting and praying for you!

John Opalewski

Author John Opalewski

John Opalewski is a graduate of Oral Roberts University. He served as a pastor for fifteen years. He has worked in the business world for nearly two decades, serving in multiple leadership roles. John's experience as a leader in both the church and business arenas has made him a sought-after international speaker, coach and mentor.

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