Risks and Rewards of Being a People Person

Be more concerned about making others feel good about themselves than you are concerned about making others feel good about you.

— Dan Reiland
J F Kennedy, Official White House Photo by Cecil Stoughton
J F Kennedy, Official White House Photo by Cecil Stoughton | Source

The above quote defines the basic characteristic of a people person, according to John Maxwell, popular author and speaker on the topic of leadership.

Maxwell cites John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States, as a success at being a people person.

  • "He knew how to give others a feeling of hope. He exuded boundless energy and made many Americans feel important and needed."1

However, of this same Kennedy, Richard Reeves in his Character Above All essays writes:

  • "Kennedy controlled every person who came in contact with him. . . He was at the center of all he surveyed. He enjoyed using people, and setting them against each other for his own amusement. He lived life as a race against boredom."2

Behaviorists contend that all leaders, in any area, have some personality risks built into their leadership capabilities. This is not to suggest that anyone should avoid leadership based on their character disposition; but that it helps to know these traits and to learn to manage them.

Most of us assume leadership positions at some time--in the home, in church and civic organizations, and very often in the business world. We benefit by developing people person traits which, according to Maxwell are “attainable by anyone who cares about other people and wants to develop his or her relational skills.”

In the table below, we view a brief summary of some traits, spelled out by Maxwell's C H A R I S M A acrostic. We also observe the flip side of these people person attributes which pose risks not only to the leaders, but also to their followers.

Rewards and Risks Built Into the People Person Capabilities

C - concern
Followers improve their sense of significance when the people person observes their needs and interests, and shows that he cares.
It is easy for needy people to become clingy and to feel neglected when their leader cannot attend to every detail of their lives.
H - help
The more energy he exerts in reaching out to others, the more his energy for helping increases.
He may feel obligated to satisfy the people's expectation and keep going although he needs a change of pace.
A - action
He makes huge things happen - more like having individuals learn to fish, than simply having them take the fish from his hand.
Some followers need more help than others, yet some will expect that what he does for one, he can do for all. He may be accused of favoritism.
R - results
The people person creates the environment and provides the impetus that makes his followers throw out their excuses and produce.
Followers who are results driven often sacrifice their beliefs and values to keep following. For them, the end results justify the means.
I - influence
People’s lives change for the better through his words of encouragement and hope, and through their imitation of his positive attitude.
“Charismatic leaders influence by charm rather than reason and when they run out of charm they tend to revert to force.” 3
S- sensitivity
Because he identifies with other people’s fears, hurts, disappointments and so on, they open up their hearts to him.
The people person has made a habit of showing empathy. It can become an act, disguising his real level of interest.
M- motivation
He can fire up his followers with little effort. He gets them moving towards goals they once thought were impossible.
The ease with which he succeeds at selling his vision can lead him to develop a sense of self-importance.
A - affirmation
People thrive on his commendation that they mean the world to him; they begin to feel that his personality and leadership are responsible for their personal development.
Both he and his followers may become addicted to his charisma. His charm may distract them from the purpose of his leadership and the goal of the organization. 4

Some Successful Leaders and Their Risk Tendencies

Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom was distracted from his goal by his desire for high approval ratings.5

Bill Clinton, former President of the United States lied easily in his effort to please, saying what he thought people wanted to hear.6

Jim Jones, sect leader and community organizer reverted to force when his charm ran out.7

Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom bullied and stepped on people.8

Donald Trump, businessman and investor got caught up in his own ego and needs.9

Why Mention the Risks?

By now it is clear that there are two sides to every character or personality trait. Whether individuals are born with people skills or they develop them, the excitement of the rewards may cause them to overlook the risks. A brief mention now and then can help to keep them focused and accountable.

  • The people person needs to understand that no matter the present success of leadership, he or she is only human and can stumble because of human imperfections.
  • Being aware of personal risk tendencies is the first step to managing them and avoiding personal sabotage.
  • People with similar leadership styles can learn to manage their own risk factors by observing how risk factors affect their counterparts.
  • Looking at their risk tendencies may cause them to commit to the promotion of the organization rather than the promotion of themselves.

The world will never outgrow its need for the people person. Visionary leadership and the gift to enlist followers will always be appreciated. Brian Evje states very concisely what we hope for in the people person: "Wear your charisma gently. Have the courage to see charisma as an attribute, one of many, and strive for more graceful leadership that requires you to attend to the higher needs of the organization, and not just you."10


1. Maxwell, John: Be a People Person: Effective Leadership Through Effective Relationships, David Cook Publishing, Colorado Springs, CO (2007)

2. Reeves, Richard: PBS Home, excerpt from Character Above All Essays, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY (1995)

3, 5, 7, 8. Chamorro-Premuzic, Tomas: Harvard Business Review, The Dark Side of Charisma, (November 16, 2012)

4, 10. Evje, Brian: Inc. Leadership Forum, 3 Dangers of Charismatic Leadership, (April 25, 2012)

6. McIntosh, Gary L. et al: excerpt from Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: The Paradox of Personal Dysfunction, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI (1998)

9. Holmes, Shelley: Make a Dent Leadership, Charismatic Leadership, (Copyright 2013)

© 2014 Dora Isaac Weithers

More by this Author

Comments 40 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

Great reflections today, Dora. We human beings are so complicated, aren't we? In the end, we are only human, and that means the bad comes with the good. It seems to me awareness is a key. Anyway, thanks for your thoughts.

word55 profile image

word55 2 years ago from Chicago

Well put MsDora, I appreciated the wonderful reading. You did an excellent job here.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Bill, the complication is part of what makes us interesting to ourselves and others, I think. I appreciate your input.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Word, thanks for your kind comment. Glad you like the article.

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Fantastic for reflection and self reflection. Certainly to some degree these truths effect us all. Thanks for a great article.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Eric, thanks for making that observation. We all have a somewhat similar make-up.

RachaelOhalloran profile image

RachaelOhalloran 2 years ago from United States

It takes a strong person (and personality) to be a people person in today's world. I like the acrostic. Excellent article. :)

m abdullah javed profile image

m abdullah javed 2 years ago

An excellent write about the essence of mass leadership. When we talk of leadership seldom we think of the risks involved, though under 'threat category' some risks do appear but not at length as is the case here. Added to this is some reflections of past and present leaders. Very useful write MsDora thanks for sharing with us.

What I can make it out from these lines is that inspite of weaknesses looking far with a vision creates great leaders, whose actions don't depend on favorable or unfavorable conditions, 'keep walking' and 'miles to go before I sleep' kind of statements mark their dynamic personalities. God willing this hub will surely inspire those who are playing their roles in various spheres to sharpen their skills and become a charismatic leader.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Rachel. We really need some of those strong people to take up their positions.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Muhammad, thanks for your comment. I think your observation is right on. Despite their humanity, there are great leaders who do an excellent job.

Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image

Jo_Goldsmith11 2 years ago

I found this to be awesome, useful and so very interesting to read. Voted this way..up and shared too.

Now, that is out of the way. What I find so interesting about this study and in your wonderful explanation of the pros and cons. Is there is much to contemplate when we set out for any leadership role.

I think we need to ask ourself the question first. " Am I doing this for me and all the allcolades"? OR "Am I doing this because this is who I am"?

I think once these two questions are answered, it would be beneficial for the person who is a *people person* to ensure their ego stays in check and keep their feet firmly planted on solid ground! :-)

Thank you for sharing this...it is useful indeed. :-)

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Jo, I totally agree with those questions you suggest. Thank you so much for your wise input.

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

This is an interesting and very informative hub. The table was especially interesting and would be helpful for any people person. As you say, leaders are very important in the world, but they need to be aware of potential pitfalls in their leadership activities. Thanks for a thought provoking hub.

Venkatachari M profile image

Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

Awesome review of people person. A well written hub highlighting good qualities of people leaders and the risks involved.

Thanks for sharing. Voted up and awesome.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

MsDora, I trust that you put a great deal of work creating this hub.. and it was so worth the read... the rewards and risks.. are clear and documented.. you give credit and references.. all in all MsDora.. you've done your homework well bless you

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Alicia, I appreciate your very kind comment. Thank you.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Venkatachari, glad you like the article. Thanks for your vote and your kind comment.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Frank, your comment makes it worth all the homework I've done. I enjoyed it too. Thanks!

E Hyland Maze profile image

E Hyland Maze 2 years ago from Santa Clarita

Great article! I am reminded of Gandhi who (is said to have) said: "There go my people and I must follow them, for I am their leader." Yet, Jesus (is said to have) said: "The sheep hear my voice and follow." And, I learned (in boot camp) that "A good leader, must, first, be a good follower."

manatita44 profile image

manatita44 2 years ago from london

Interesting take. I'm sure I fit somewhere in there. What would we do without the 'colour' eh?

Kennedy was a potent Force, a power with purpose. Alas! you know the rest.

We are all puppets in His hand and perhaps there's always dispensation from the Supreme.

Thoughtful article. Much peace.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Eugene, hope you have good memories of boot camp, since my article brought you back to it. All your quotes are helpful. Thank you.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Manatita, we must have some colour; God made it. I agree He has some leading in the path we take. Thanks so much for your contribution.

Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

Interesting hub and very insightful as to the people person and those in leadership roles. I was thinking of a people pleaser person when I first read the title, but I see that is not exactly to whom you are writing of here. However, the people pleaser person does go out of his or her way to please others, and forgetting about his or herself.

There certainly needs to be balance. Your table is very informative.

Another wonderful hub, MsDora.

Up ++++ tweeting and pinning

God bless you.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Hi Faith, thanks for stopping by. The people person is sometimes a people pleaser, but for them all, balance is the key as you rightly said. I appreciate your input.

denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

This analysis is really an eye-opener! I have seen this in people that I know personally, yet it didn't really compute until seeing it here. Influencing people is a great quality to have, but we have to be careful what we do with it!

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Denise. Caution and balance are two good words for the people person to remember. I appreciate your input.

annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England

Such a well-structured and balanced hub here, Dora.

I like the way you give both sides of each attribute. Leadership is a tricky thing and charisma is a gift. I love the words, 'Wear your charisma gently'.

Great piece and an interesting read.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Ann, glad you found the article interesting; I enjoyed putting it together. Thanks for your feedback.

Carol McCullough profile image

Carol McCullough 2 years ago from U.S.

Very well written and knowledgeable article, leadership roles can carry a lot of weight on a person's shoulders.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

True, Carol. We should appreciate good leaders and help make life easy for them. Thanks for your comment.

MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 2 years ago from South Africa

Absolutely profound and thought-provoking. Apart from narcissists, pleased people are eager to please those who have pleased them. So, the people person, by pleasing others, obtain power they can apply in favour of their own needs and goals.

Fortunately most people freeze when a people person uses his power over them in a negative way.

Voted up, interesting and very useful :)

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Hi Martie, I appreciate your input on the people person. Thank you.

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 2 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

I would say,JFK, Reagan, George W Bush and Clinton were people persons.George H.W. Bush, Nixon, and Truman, not so much. I think they were all good l leaders, with the exception of Nixon. I think he could have been under different circumstances

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Don, I agree with your people person presidential picks. Thanks for weighing in.

swilliams profile image

swilliams 2 years ago from Arizona

What an interesting and useful article Ms. Dora! I love the pointers that you give! Rewards and Risks Built Into the People Person Capabilities is very eye- opening! Voted up and Tweeted out!

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Thank you, Emunah for reading, voting and tweeting. Glad you found it useful.

Melek 20 months ago

You can add up this:- Effective leadership is pnutitg first things first.प्रभावी नेत्रित्व महत्त्वपूर्ण चीजों को पहले रखना होता है.Without initiative, leaders are simply workers in leadership positions. बिना पहल के , लीडर महज़ एक श्रमिक है जो लीडर बन कर बैठा हुआ है.

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 18 months ago from Wisconsin Rapids

MDora, you have given me some insights to the nature of people persons.Like so many things in life, it can be a mixed blessing.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 17 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Melek, your statements ring true. Thanks very much for your contribution.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 17 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Don, I agree. We have to recognize and appreciate both sides of the coin.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article