In the previous two posts, we discussed the first two ingredients for earning leadership respect: consistency and making quality decisions. Assuming you master the art of consistency and quality decision making, I will admit that you will be well on your way to earning the respect of virtually everyone you encounter. And in all candor, with those two out of the three under your belt, you will already be farther down the road than most people ever get. But I’m working for more than that. Therefore, two out of three is simply not good enough. You’re not quite there yet. There’s still the issue of how leaders interact with others. Especially those who are different than us in some way.
Here’s a thought to kick around for a minute or two. Think about the people you work with and around. How many of them can simply make you smile because they crossed your mind? These would be the people who are normally positive, upbeat and always willing to lend a helping hand. They’re easy to talk to and they are interested in you and what you have to offer. Simply being in their presence tends to make you happier, encouraged and more optimistic about the future.
So have you thought of a few folks that fit the bill? If you have, you’re lucky. In fact, I believe it’s more than luck. If you believe there’s a God in Heaven as I do, I suggest you take time regularly to thank Him for those very people who make your life better, more pleasant. Because those people are nothing short of a blessing to you.
But, unfortunately, you don’t get extra credit as a leader for loving the lovable.
Take another minute to think about the people you work with one more time. This time can you think of anyone that just seems to bring out the worst in you. These are probably the people who are consistently negative, caustic and argumentative. They are difficult to approach when you need help and they are far more interested in their own issues than what others might be dealing with. Even on one of their few good days, if they walked into your office and said, “Good morning,” you find yourself thinking, I’d like to slap the taste right out of their mouth!
Okay, so maybe I went a tad too far. Maybe you’re not the type that fantasizes about physical aggression. Even so, I’ll bet you understand what I mean. Let me remind you again that you don’t get extra credit for loving the lovable. But, this time you’re in luck. You get double extra credit in life for loving (and working with and leading) those who are not so lovable.
How Leaders Earn Respect
I am a collector of quotes. I have collected many that have impacted me in one way or another over the years. But, if asked for my single favorite quote, there would be very little hesitation in my response. There is a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States, and a native Kentuckian, I might add, that I think leaders ought to know.
“I don’t like that man,” Honest Abe admitted, before adding, “I think I need to get to know him better.”
That’s the type of leader I aspire to be. The type of leader that can be honest about his feelings toward a particular individual and then soldier on anyway in a determined attempt to build a better leader-follower relationship.
Or course, the average manager or supervisor is more apt to say, “I don’t like that man or woman, I think I will ignore them, separate myself from them or reassign them,” anything but work to understand them and earn their respect.
I’m not going to kid you, there is nothing easy about how leaders earn respect. It takes hard work, commitment, selflessness, personal sacrifice, attention to detail and so many other rare human attributes as one strives to be consistent, make quality decisions and interact with everyone—all kinds of people. But those dedicated few who are willing to make such a commitment and then follow through, this I can promise you. The long term benefit of your efforts will be worth it. You will be guaranteed to earn the respect of those around you because you have accomplished what most can’t and some won’t.
So how do you see it? I’d like to hear from your experience — how can leaders earn respect?
Phillip Van Hooser
Leadership Training Expert, Keynote Speaker
Author of Leaders Ought to Know: 11 Ground Rules for Common Sense Leadership
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This article is adapted from Leaders Ought to Know: 11 Ground Rules for Common Sense Leadership, (Wiley 2013). Copyright 2013 by Phillip Van Hooser. All rights reserved. This article may be downloaded for personal and professional development. Copies may be shared within an individual organization. All other uses of this material are strictly prohibited without written permission from the author. To purchase a copy of the book, please visit www.leadersoughttoknow.com.