Likability is a source of influence, power - and new business. That's what Hedrick Smith hammered way back in the late 1980s in his book "The Power Game." Classic examples of likable professionals range from Bill Clinton to Betty White.
But those just developing their branding often confuse likability with what is perceived as "being nice." They assume, wrongly, that they have to be both. That muddies one brand.
Essentially, likability indicates you are accessible or seem so. And others want to have that access. Bill and Betty are folks we'd like to have a beer with.
However, it's irrelevant and maybe even counterproductive for them to strive to be nice. Nice indicates over-accessibility. That professional seems like the one to hit up for a favor, without any clear intention of returning that favor. Increasingly, women who are determined to lean in are cleaning up their act. They don't want to be seen as nice.
On a blistering hot August day I realized that I couldn't be nice. My old insecure self was operating. I had offered an 89-year-old woman a ride to AT&T Mobility to straighten out her cell phone confusion. In 100-degree heat I was double-parked in front of her building. She was late. Before she emerged from the door she told me that she was going to check her mail. "No," I said. "You are not going to check your mail." That was the ah-ha moment. Nice marks us for a lack of respect.