Is Your Leadership Worthy of Respect? Here’s How to Check
Are your actions and behaviors as a leader worthy of respect? It’s a simple—yet loaded—question.
While you may believe other people should treat you with respect because of your status, authority, or position, you can’t expect they automatically will. The Respectful Leader will make an ongoing effort to be respect-worthy.
Today, many leaders fail to comport themselves in respectful ways. The signs may be subtle: Have you ever lied to a customer? Would you describe your leadership style as “command and control”? Have you ever blown up at your colleagues?
Other times, the signals are blatant. Some leaders are purposely disrespectful and refuse to take responsibility for their behavior. Others shut down, check out, or walk out of meetings abruptly. They use foul language to describe and denigrate others. Or they play favorites and overlook the disrespectful behavior of rainmakers and internal VIPs.
How does your leadership compare? To determine if you’re worthy of respect, ask these six questions:
Are you honest? Obviously, lying to people is not respect-worthy. But plenty of leaders try to get away with it for various reasons. The problem is most people have what we, at the Center for Respectful Leadership, call a “built-in B.S. detector”; they know when their boss is slinging them a line of baloney. People don’t feel respected when they sense they’re being lied to by their leaders.
You’ve probably heard the old saying that “honesty is the best policy.” There’s a lot of wisdom in this, partly because when you’re honest, most people can sense it and sincerely appreciate it, and they’re more willing to help you solve problems as a result.
Even if the news you need to deliver isn’t particularly good, your people will appreciate and respect your transparency. We can tell you from experience, from working with hundreds of companies, nonprofits, and government agencies, that when leaders are as honest and open as they can be about what’s going on, they’re more respected and trusted.
Do you follow through? Another part of being respect-worthy is simply doing what you say you’re going to do and following through on your commitments. No one respects leaders who break their promises. In fact, it’s more respect-worthy not to make a commitment in the first place than it is to commit and fail to honor it.
Most customers don’t have patience for companies that don’t follow through on their commitments. The same goes for employees and leaders. If an employee finds that their boss doesn’t follow through, they’ll eventually go look to work for a leader who does.
Are you fair? The Respectful Leader is consistently fair to everyone and avoids playing favorites. We’ve worked for managers who’ve played favorites—in fact, some of them made us their favorites!—and we didn’t respect them for it.
Do you have an employee who’s critical to your company’s success? Do you overlook or defend their disrespectful behavior because of it? Unfortunately, this kind of favoritism is common in many organizations; rainmakers and purported geniuses are given a pass by leadership because they’re considered invaluable. This kind of favoritism isn’t respect-worthy, to say the least. Eventually, it will undermine morale and cost your organization money.
Respect-worthy leaders go out of their way to hold everyone to the same expectations and standards. Most employees respond well to a boss—even a firm, no-nonsense kind of boss—who treats everyone in a consistently fair manner.
Are you prone to swearing or name-calling? When it comes to cursing and swearing, most people—even those who use foul language themselves—generally have little respect for leaders who swear often, especially if it’s directed at others in the heat of anger. And they definitely don’t respect senior executives who yell and call people ugly, disgusting names.
Even though you, and perhaps a few of your close colleagues, may be comfortable with these behaviors, please know that a significant number of people are not; they find them disrespectful. They don’t consider them respect-worthy.
Now, of course, using a swear word when you stub your toe is usually understood and quickly forgiven by almost everyone. But cursing at someone or calling them a name is usually not. If you must swear, keep it about inanimate things and lousy situations, not people. And keep it quiet and to a minimum.
Are you clear? Most employees appreciate clarity from their bosses. They want to know what the goals are, how success is measured, and when the work is due and then be allowed to get on with achieving this as best they know how.
Unfortunately, in the fog of busyness and multitasking, sometimes we’re not as clear as we could be; we assume our employees know what we want. As we all know, assumptions can get us in trouble.
Or the reverse is true: We think our employees need to be told precisely what to do and how to do it. This is, of course, what micromanagers do.
The Respectful Leader offers clarity on expectations, but not too much, and opens the door for employees to ask questions without worrying they’ll be perceived as ignorant or needy by their boss.
Do you cultivate patience? There’s no question that in today’s hypercompetitive business world, leaders everywhere are under enormous pressure to get things done quickly. Unfortunately, this pressure is pushed down into our organizations to the point where everyone is harping on everyone else to work “faster, faster, faster!” This approach can produce short-term results, but in the long run, it’s exhausting and unsustainable.
The Respectful Leader understands that each person works best—and makes fewer mistakes—when they’re allowed to work at their own pace. Sure, some people will try to take advantage of a patient boss. But, in a truly respectful culture, most people will willingly step up their pace when they see a genuine need to work fast.
Cultivate patience. Let people work at their own pace. Set reasonable timeframe expectations and trust your teams will produce for you. They will.
The bottom line: The Respectful Leader consciously practices being respect-worthy daily.
Written by Gregg Ward.
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