Respect is a much-talked and much-written about cornerstone of effective leadership, particularly the more human kind. Yes, leaders need to be respected because it leads to a bond of trust that enables a culture of accountability and success.
But it’s not all about YOU getting respect. It’s just as much about them being respected too.
It’s about the people you lead. They need to be respected as fellow human beings. And, just as importantly, their WORK needs to be respected. It is THE way to truly earn their respect in return.
Implicit in this respect is the realization that every single role in a company or organization is important to the mission of that company or organization.
No matter what it is.
The leader needs to acknowledge this, in their words and in their deeds. A leader cannot “look down” on any person or task. A leader, by respecting the work, and explaining how that work makes a difference, puts the person behind the work in a much better position to succeed.
What are some of the “words and deeds” where leaders earn respect? Here are what I consider to be the 4 key actions.
First, care enough to KNOW their jobs, even in a general sense. To use my corporate experience at a cable company, KNOW that a cable installer has to work in all kind of weather conditions, and in all kind of home conditions – including crawling around on hands and knees in 105 degree attic crawlspaces, or climbing telephone poles in minus-10 temperatures.
Or knowing that a call center agent puts on a headset at 8AM, and aside from breaks and lunch, the calls NEVER stop. It’s one after the other. Not a lot of time to regroup from an angry customer, or a complicated problem.
Second, DO as many of these jobs as you can. One of the best things I ever did was to go on “ride alongs” with the technicians, or put on the headset myself and take calls (my goodness, that was one of the scariest moments of my life, just getting those “beeps” in my ear over and over and over again).
Third, EXPRESS this respect, appreciation, and understanding, in the context of setting processes, goals, and expectations.
In effect, saying, “We value what you do. We understand what you do. We know the difference it makes. And we keep that in mind for every rule, process, procedure, protocol, or directive we ask you to follow”
And fourth, do it all GRACEFULLY. “Grace” is a most unappreciated word (especially in these times) that should be used more frequently as a means to characterize good “personhood”.
When one lives with grace, it means that in one’s manner, talk and action, there flows an elegance and warmth that respects and honors all individuals with kindness, compassion, understanding, and tolerance. This warmth is capable of spreading to everyone this person encounters, so that the person is described as adding “grace” to an occasion or to any other gathering. When one lives with grace, they also possess grace, in that they draw moral and spiritual strength from it, and ultimately, true happiness and fulfillment.
Know, do, and express, gracefully. That’s how you earn respect as a more human leader.
And, perhaps even more importantly, it’s how you become a happy and fulfilled leader too.