Leader Trust: Relatability and Acceptance


Being relatable and being accepting of others are key competencies in building and maintaining trust with your team, especially during the COVID 19 pandemic. My blogs have been covering the topic of trust in the leadership context this month. 

Often leaders equate being relatable with being likeable, but this is not the case. I view a relatable person as someone you feel you have something in common with or someone who you can empathize or identify with. On the other hand, being likeable entails a pleasant and friendly way about you. While the line between these two adjectives is small, it’s these small nuanced differences that can influence your success as a leader.


As organizations place emphasis on leaders being relatable and accepting, it’s easy to confuse being relatable with being likeable. Organizations rely on their leaders to make hard decisions- decisions that may not be liked by other employees. Additionally, if you prioritize being likeable, you run the risk of being too nice which can be harmful to employees and the organization’s success. Here are a few examples:

  • Polite Deception- To increase employee inclusion, employers often use group brainstorming sessions. As the leader, you must be willing to politely call out bad ideas and support an environment where others also feel free to do so. 

  • Take Advantage- Being overly generous with employees who don’t do their work is detrimental for the employee and for you as a leader, not to mention the organization. Other employees will perceive special treatment and you’ll create an environment that high performers don’t want to work in. 


There’s no blueprint or secret formula for being a relatable leader. It has to do with honesty. As humans, leader or employee our similarities vastly outnumber our differences. Use that to your advantage. Here are a few tips:

  • Respect your employees- Don’t underestimate their capabilities and be mindful of micromanaging. Give them the room and the ability to complete their work in the way that’s best for them.

  • Advocate- Show employees that you have their back by truly being their voice with upper management. Take cues from Servant-Leadership and support decisions that will help employees grow as individuals.

  • Admit to mistakes- No one’s perfect. Admitting to mistakes as a leader does nothing more than show your employees that you’re just like them. You are humble and relatable.

  • Share- Being open and authentic as a leader is critical. Here Emotional Intelligence is your best asset. 

Acceptance of others

Acceptance is acknowledging what has happened and accepting the truth of the situation. This is a powerful activity for us all, leader or not. Then there is acceptance of your employees that made the mistake, share their truth and listening to their solutions to fix it. 

 "Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond to what happens to us."- Charles Swindoll

 Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet because acceptance is a choice. It comes easy for some and hard for most. It is important because, as Charles Swindoll’s quote exemplifies, you can’t readily change how another person acts toward you, but you can change the way you respond to that person. Therefore, acceptance of differences is an important tenet for you as a leader.  

 This idea of acceptance needs to be understood and followed within the organization, especially in relation to how leaders interact with employees. When   employees acknowledge the truth of a workplace situation, only then can they move toward acceptance. This will ultimately allow them to let go, to learn, make changes, forgive, move on, and trust. While not easy, acceptance is key to developing trusting professional relationships. Without acceptance, it becomes difficult for professional relationships to progress beyond conflict

 If you’d like to discuss how Emotional Intelligence can help you become a more relatable and accepting leader to build trusting professional relationships, contact me.