2019-11-01 by Ronn Torossian

It’s not uncommon to hear some leaders debate about having to choose between being well-liked or well-respected.  The simple although not easy answer is that a balance of the two works best.  Well-liked leaders who are also respected have not only proven to be successful business managers, but also motivating and engaging mentors.


Be open and transparent, yet respectful.  Get to really know your peers.  Since 1985 and before he became CEO, Sheldon Yellen, literally carried around a briefcase filled with greeting cards, hand wrote, and sent out 9,500 birthday and congratulatory cards annually to employees of what is now a $1.5 billion organization.  He continues this practice today.

Industry giant, GE, is known for placing communications as one of its priorities in selecting its leaders.  One of the first things John Flannery did when he took over as CEO of GE on August 1, 2017 was to send a letter to all 300,000 company employees.  In an interview with Forbes magazine shortly after assuming office, he cited ”customers, team and execution/accountability” as key tenets of his workplace values. This year the stock has increased by 10%. 

Recognize and appreciate the good work of those doing the work.  At the same time, be humble and confident while encouraging an atmosphere of innovation, change, and inclusivity.

Well-liked and respected leaders convey empathy while displaying a devotion to diversity.  In a sense, they’re  servant leaders who are also willing to place themselves on the line with their staff.  And the bottom line is they are excellent communicators. 

Listening can be one of the most difficult things someone in authority can do.  However, it’s also a priceless way to display respect and earn trust.  Once that kind of environment is created, things like collaboration, problem-solving and innovation fall right into place. 

So, one’s choice of words can have a big impact on the receiver.  Ever wonder how a pie or dessert using the same ingredients comes out and tastes so differently when made by different bakers?  Using the same words but with different tonalities or inflections can also have a variety of effects.  

Communicating with empathy and displaying a sense of understanding through active listening will produce better results and bolster respect with staff and other publics.


Needless to say, managing people can be one of the greatest challenges in any workplace.   Each employee has a different personality, interests, skills, values, and ethics.  But they’re also affected one way or another by how a manager interacts with them. 

A good leader won’t ask or direct employees to do something they themselves wouldn’t do.  It sets up a “them” and “me” fence and doesn’t do much for instilling a climate of teamwork.  Leading by example is still a value cherished by most employees.

Nor should a leader ask an employee to cancel their vacation because something important arose.  It’s not only a show of disrespect but sometimes one of poor planning.  Assuming the employee put in for vacation weeks, if not months ago, such a request displays poor management planning in anticipation of that planned vacation.

Similarly, employees should never be asked to work if they are ill.  It’s another sign of disrespect and communicates a “company first” attitude. 

It may be obvious, but employees should never be asked directly or subtlety to do anything illegal or against company policy.  This also goes to falsifying a report or record to cover up an error.  Awareness of whistleblower laws have not only heightened awareness of such violations, but this communicates a corporate environment that is the antithesis of what the company founders envisioned.

Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a digital PR agency.

Ronn Torossian: Insights from a Native New Yorker and CEO of 5WPR

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 250 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, and a recipient of Crain’s New York 2021 Most Notable in Marketing & PR. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and has authored two editions of his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations," which is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities