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Can You Lead Without Respect?

“Most good relationships are built on mutual trust and respect.”
— Mona Sutphen

Respect is foundational to all good relationships. Being respectful drives ethical behavior; it’s what gives good leaders influence with their teams.

John Maxwell is known for saying, “Leadership is influence - nothing more, nothing less.” Even leaders without the respect of their people can lead, but their leading on borrowed influence.

  • Without respect, you’ll have a short leadership lifespan

  • Without respect, people will work for you but won’t trust you

  • Without respect, you’ll have the influence of a level one leader; people only follow because of your position.

  • Without respect, you become “The Lid” to your team’s potential

  • Sooner or later, their personal development will cause your team members to outgrow you and leave for better growth opportunities.

Commenting on the Law of Respect, Maxwell says, “Followers are attracted to people who are better leaders than themselves.” Someone would rarely follow a leader they do not respect and can easily outperform.

Respect and influence go together

“A person of influence commands respect by their excellent character, while someone without influence demands it by leveraging their position.”

  1. You’re a respected leader if your team volunteers for projects on their own time

  2. You’re a respected leader if your team willingly goes the extra mile for you

Question: How can you become a respectful leader?

Answer: Practice, Practice, Practice.

Begin a respectful and influential leadership lifestyle by practicing some of Gregg Ward and Walter G. Meyer’s suggestions.

Be the First to Respect

“A respectful leader offers others respect first; they don’t wait to be treated with respect before being respectful. Easy ways to demonstrate respect are meeting them with a smile, make appropriate eye contact and use their surnames or Sir, Ms., Mr., Ma’am.

The workplace has grown more informal in communication and even dress; there’s no question there. This informality can break down silos and hierarchies, and it becomes more comfortable to collaborate. It’s easier to work with people we consider our equals.

Practice Regular Respect

When we are young, most of us are taught about common courtesy. In other words, we learned about manners. We’re taught to say “Please” and Thank You” and to greet others with a smile and say, “Good Morning.” Saying “excuse me,” showing up on time, or letting someone know when you’ll be late and listening attentively are common ones to keep in mind. To be a Respectful Leader, you need to engage these common courtesies sincerely and consistently with everyone.

Be Respect-Worthy

While you may believe others should treat you with respect because of your status, authority, or position, you can’t expect that they always will. Make an ongoing effort to be worthy of others’ respect. Characteristics that are respect-worthy are honestly, follow-through, being fair and avoid playing favorites…” (2)

In Conclusion

In a respectful work environment, people become more engaged thus more productive. Statistically, a culture of mutual respect boosts productivity while reducing

  • Employee conflicts

  • Miscommunication

  • Misunderstandings

  • Absenteeism

“Question: So, can you lead without respect? Answer: yes, but not for long.”

End Notes

(1) The Law of Respect – 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell

(2) The Respectful Leader: Seven Ways to Influence Without Intimidation By Gregg Ward and Walter G. Meyer

*** This article was authored by John Picarello, Chief Leadership Officer at Lions Pride Leadership Co. ***


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