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  • Writer's pictureShandy Welch

#10 Respect and Leadership

Updated: Mar 10, 2023

The tenth and final characteristic of a good leader is Respect.

  1. Integrity

  2. Delegation

  3. Communication

  4. Self-Awareness

  5. Gratitude

  6. Learning Agility

  7. Influence

  8. Empathy

  9. Courage

  10. Respect

Not a small subject for sure. There are two sides to respect; the respect we earn and the respect we give.

The respect we earn:

I have had the pleasure of coaching many extraordinary leaders. Most have worked “from the bottom up,” developing their leadership craft and building relationships and respect. We may respect the job ones does and the impact one makes, but to ​garner ​personal​ respect that is earned over time. It is slow and methodical. The subtleties of actions and words are what others around us notice.

Step back and think about who you most admire and respect. I would venture to guess they possess selflessness, humility, passion, and drive to serve. Respect is not given because of your title, which often works against you. We earn respect by partnering with others and illustrate by the clarity of character and decisiveness for what we stand for. Credibility and respect are derived from acting from a place of service, not ego. To stand selflessly behind others and support them fully.

We respect individuals’ intellect and tactical skill, but above all, we respect how people allow us to feel. When talking to others, are you fully present, or are you multi-tasking (checking email or looking at your phone? ) Do you look them in their eyes and listen with the intent to learn and understand? Do you consistently approach others with curiosity and empathy regardless of your agenda?

Respect is earned because you lead with intentionality and passion.

Respect is not earned by doing but rather by being and acting in a manner that inspires others to want more of you. We inherently find respect in ones character, which overrides most everything else. It is character that draws us to leaders who create and facilitate experiences of connection and purpose.

The respect we give:

If you don’t give it, you will never get it! Do others have to earn your respect before you give it, or can you give it until they lose it? Similar to trust.

Taking the stance that people have to earn your respect presumes an element of hierarchy and judgment, which is unhealthy. You may disagree with another or need clarity on their perspective, but withholding respect for another human without probable cause is a dangerous and lonely path.

Is it possible to assume each person acts from their place of integrity even if their actions differ from yours? Making assumptions that fit our narrative and align with a self-serving perspective is easy. It takes a true leader to be mindful of our preconceived ideas, biases, and agendas, which have been layered on one another. To lean into curiosity, assume the best intentions, and seek to understand rather than judge is a rare skill.

So why does this matter in business? In a study of nearly 20,000 employees around the world, respect was the common characteristic shown to improve employee commitment and engagement. Showing respect for others indirectly motivates them. Forbes published a great article articulating the three ways to improve your leadership through respect.

I would encourage you to give respect and reserve judgment. What another does is not always indicative of who they are. Allow for patience, understanding, and the opportunity to learn more. Remember, as a leader, what you do will be repeated by others.

p.s. While writing this, I noticed my husband (a physician) attending an international webinar on technological innovation in cancer research. This discussion was very high level, and as I watched over his shoulder, the narrator posed a question asked by the audience. Unbeknownst to me, it was my husband's question re: innovative advancements in breast cancer, specifically DCIS, which is the type of cancer I had. My eyes immediately weld up as I realized he had quietly sought out perspective and information to support my health more fully. I felt the unprompted subtleties of support. I never thought it was possible, but my respect for Hans grew even greater at that moment.

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