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Respect: A Leadership Requirement
July 03, 2014

Welcome to Business Leadership


Respect in action is breathtaking. An atmosphere of respect literally feels different; the air of respect is calm, strong and easy to breathe. Respect is a crowd of thousands, scattered over acres, falling silent and standing at attention for our National Anthem, sung by a soloist who understood that the anthem was the star. See 'Leadership, Respect and the Greatest Generation"

If you are fortunate to be in a respectful workplace, this information may help you keep the conversation about respect vibrant. If your workplace lacks that breathable air of respect, this newsletter addresses three ways to start the conversation about respect.

Reclaiming Respect

Three definitions from the Oxford Dictionaries crystalize respect in the workplace:

1. Feeling of admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities or achievements
2. Due regard for feelings, wishes, rights or traditions of others
3. Avoid harming or interfering with

The third definition “avoid harming or interfering with” is baseline behavior in the workplace. This is what much of HR law is about—defining that which is legally deemed harmful or personal interference. While this is certainly necessary, it sets only the compliance level of respect. This is much like the parental, “Yes, because I said so” response to the kids, “Do I have to?” When organizational leaders accept only this baseline, the focus will be on compliance. This step in the conversation is necessary but not sufficient. Hopefully your organization will already have achieved this level. If not, it’s the place to start.

To achieve that breath-taking level of respect, we need to practice both the first and second definitions of respect. Rather than argue whether respect is earned or granted, we gain more by acknowledging that it is both. The first definition of respect, “feeling of admiration for someone elicited by their abilities, qualities or achievements” is earned respect. “Due regard for feelings, wishes, rights or traditions of others” is granted respect. Both practiced together magnify respect.

We are in the fortunate position of knowing, through research, that feelings drive behavior and behavior can drive feelings. Therefore, if we focus on behavior in the organization, which we certainly can do, the feeling of respect may follow if it is not already there. If the feeling is there, then we can help people find the right behavior to express respect.

Over this upcoming series of newsletters, we will take a look at the leadership behaviors that model respect to all stakeholders including:

  • Mindfulness
  • Courtesy
  • Competence

  • These behaviors are often discussed as personal development and yet, in practice, they are leadership behaviors. Who the leader is determines how he or she leads. Mindful, courteous and competent leaders lead differently from those who have not mastered those behaviors in themselves.

    A friend once described going with his father to a university sponsored visit by the Dalai Lama. “The stadium was packed and people were talking as you would expect them to be. It was a beautiful afternoon in an outdoor stadium and the noise level was high. When the Dalai Lama walked on stage the entire stadium became still. Conversation stopped all at once. Understand that this happened spontaneously. There was no announcement. There was no fanfare. All that happened was that a man walked onto the stage.”

    In his leadership, the Dalai Lama certainly models mindfulness, courtesy and competence. He is not alone, the leaders we remember and categorize as good leaders most likely demonstrated these characteristics as well. They were aware of themselves, others and the situation. They spoke politely and strongly when necessary. They knew their job and did it. The leaders we respect and remember took responsibility for themselves and for those they chose to lead.

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