Respect is Vital for Successful Leadership



noun: due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others. e.g. “young people’s lack of respect for their parents”

synonyms: due regard, consideration, thoughtfulness, attentiveness, politeness, courtesy, civility, deference; “he speaks to the old lady with respect”.

Search for a definition of “respect” online and one of the options returned is “due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others”. Respect for others is a key quality of a successful leader and the explanation below is taken from the handbook for our Authentic Leader programme.

Respect for Others.  Each one of us will sometimes have to live and work under extremely difficult conditions. In such circumstances, it is particularly important that we show the greatest respect, tolerance, understanding, and compassion for others regardless of their personal background; leadership and teamwork depend on it, and we have the fundamental right to expect to be treated with the same degree of respect and dignity by all with whom we work.

It is evident from recent news articles that not all leaders share my view on the importance of respect for all.

Donald Trump has shown a lack of respect for black Americans and the right to peacefully protest, with his attacks on players in the NFL. If the statements from a Florida Congresswoman and a family member are correct then he has also shown a complete lack of respect and compassion for the widow of a US servicemen, with his staggering remark “he knew what he signed up for”!

The developing scandal around Harvey Weinstein displays a lack of respect towards ambitious, young actors from Weinstein and from others in senior leadership positions across the entertainment industry. Senior executives appear to have lacked the moral courage to stand up and put a stop to a behaviour that is apparently far more common than most of us could have imagined.

We have also seen a full apology from the Football Association in the UK for the inappropriate humour of Mark Sampson, the former manager of England Ladies. The apology is the right thing to do, but is not enough for many in the sport. The whole incident again illustrates a lack of respect, even for senior players at the top of the sport, within the organisation.

I have seen a recent debate online about the need to earn respect compared to the suggestion that we should always respect our elders. The opposing opinions got me thinking about the correct view of respect if we are to succeed as leaders in the modern, rapidly changing world.

Re-reading the definition that opens this post confirms my view that we should show respect to all those around us, especially those we lead, automatically; allowing us to consider their feelings, wishes and rights. We may still need to act in a way that will not please everyone but by being respectful our decisions and actions are more likely to be accepted by those impacted. Of course, there are occasions that people act in a way that we do not, and cannot respect. The question we must then ask ourselves is whether we can respect the person while not respecting their behaviour. This will always be easier if the behaviour is isolated and out of character. It becomes increasingly difficult when the inappropriate behaviour is repeated or becomes normal for that person. As a leader, that is the time to stand up and act against disrespectful behaviour and people; staying silent is not an option!

What is your view of respect in the workplace or in society generally; must it be earned or can it be given freely until you are proved wrong?

To explore how to develop respectful leaders and team members within your organisation, get in touch via

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