Like trust, respect is a precious social currency in the context of intelligent leadership. Intelligent leaders know that their positions do not grant them any implicit respect. If they want the respect of their peers and reports, they must earn it. Authentic, caring, and empowering leadership automatically earns respect, appreciation, and admiration.
You can’t ask for, demand, or beg for respect. In today’s workplace and in the context of the horizontal hierarchies that modern leadership has introduced, leaders and employees must earn and offer respect.
On one hand, respect is an indispensable component of civilized human existence. However, it’s also a powerful leadership tool. As Mormon leader Thomas S. Monson once remarked, when we treat people as they are, they will likely remain as they are. When we treat them as if they were what their potential allows them to be, they will fulfill their potential.
Leaders, like employees, must earn respect.
Leadership coaching professionals consider respect and trust to be two important ingredients of intelligent leadership. They create workplace morale, motivate and empower, and they allow leaders to actually lead.
How can leaders earn respect? Once they earn it, how can they prevent themselves from losing it?
1. Setting a Strong Work Ethic Standard
From the perspective of executive coaching, leading by example is the only effective way for leaders to generate trust and respect. Actions are louder than words, and humans have a low tolerance for hypocrisy.
Contrary to what some leaders may think, it’s not easy to deceive employees. Such leaders may be able to fool some people some of the time but fooling everyone all the time is impossible. Low moral standards and hypocritical attitudes prompt people to respond in kind or resist passively.
To earn respect, leaders must have flawless work ethics and convey trustworthiness and reliability through their actions.
2. Showing Vulnerability and Owning Up to Mistakes
People perceive leaders as risk-takers and expect them to act as ambassadors of change. Business coaching insists on making leaders comfortable with change and getting them to embrace paradigm shifts.
Risk-taking always carries the possibility of failure, and followers understand that. They know leaders who challenge the status quo may fail, but if these leaders are upfront about their failures and own up to them, employees will want to assume the risks with them.
Leaders unafraid of showing vulnerability build unique rapports with employees. They prove they’re human and need the help of followers to succeed. This attitude empowers and motivates people to throw their support behind their leaders even in the face of overwhelming odds.
3. Deflecting Recognition Toward Employees
Many leaders see recognition as one of the thrills and due rewards of leadership. Some grow addicted to it; they then assume credit for everything.
No one likes an attention-seeking, credit-hogging leader. Instead of building teams, such leaders tear them down. Leaders can earn the respect of peers and reports by deflecting recognition and crediting teams for success. At the same time, they assume the responsibility of failure, shouldering its burden for the benefit of said teams and employees.
By granting employees the recognition and credit they deserve, they focus on what intelligent leaders should do: advancing the careers of others over their own.
4. A Genuine Executive Presence
Powerful, intelligent leaders are authentic people unafraid to own and live their personal brands. Such leaders are role models for others and lead people by example.
A leader with an authentic presence engages others through constructive dialogue and feedback regardless of rank, status, or their organizational position. Due to their authenticity, such leaders make lasting, positive impacts on people they assist.
5. Giving Respect
To earn respect, one must give respect. How do leaders show respect towards employees?
You can’t separate earning respect from giving respect.
- Make it clear you value their presences and contributions through words and deeds.
- Don’t trivialize their concerns and do your best to address them.
- Communicate clearly and explain your decisions in detail.
Earning respect is a genuine leadership journey. Leaders who go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure the wellbeing of employees and create empowering, engaging environments that rewards efforts fairly will earn the respect of peers and reports. Respect is a delicate and valuable social commodity in leadership. As such, it is one of the great rewards of intelligent leadership.
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