What do Abraham Lincoln, John Wooden and Jack Welch (these are affiliate links; I will receive a commission if you purchase through these links but they have no extra cost to you) all have in common? They were leaders of the highest caliber and at the highest levels of their careers.
How did they become such great leaders? Did people decide to follow them from the moment they were born?
Of course not.
Did they reach the highest level of their careers without gaining experience at lower levels?
Of course not.
Were they respected solely because of the titles they held in their organizations?
Of course not.
They earned the respect of those they lead and of their peers because of the principles for which they stood, the manner in which they upheld their values and the hard work they did.
You don’t have to be the President of the United States of America, a legendary college basketball coach or corporate CEO to be respected. How do you gain the kind of respect these men garnered?
If you commit to doing the following three things, you can be respected too:
1. Understand respect is earned, not given – Some people who are put into leadership positions believe their subordinates will automatically respect them because of their leadership titles. This can be from any leadership position: shift-line manager in a factory, head teller at a bank, mid-level manager in an office and even a parent.
While a leadership position should be respected innately, the person in the position should not. For example, I will always respect the position of United States President but I cannot respect the person serving that role if he is immoral or unethical.
I recently wrote a post stating that being a jerk is not in your job description. While being a jerk is not in your job description, being worthy of respect should be. You have to earn respect.
You will earn respect if you do certain things and refrain from others. Here is a short list of some things you should and should not do if you want to earn respect:
Care about others more than yourself
Admit when you’re wrong or have made a mistake
Say “I’m sorry”
Always put forth maximum effort, i.e., work hard
Give constructive criticism
Ask for constructive criticism
Help others succeed
Give credit when it is due
Praise others for the good they have done
Know what you don’t know
Think you’re all that
Ask someone to do something you are not willing to do
Be overly sarcastic
Throw someone under the bus (ever)
Talk about someone behind his/her back (ever)
Take credit for something you didn’t do (ever)
Talk down to a subordinate or peer (ever)
Be “big brother”
Act like you know everything
2. Stay true to your values – Everyone has a set of values by which they live. I have a certain set of values which will likely differ from yours. No matter what value set you have, never stray from it.
Granted, values can change. When they change, admit it and live by the new values. Your values have likely changed at some point in your life so you should understand.
If you are caught doing something that is contrary to the values you publicly portray, your reputation will be tarnished. You can see this every day if you watch the news. Martha Stewart is a great business example. And besides, people love to gossip. You don’t want to be the subject of their gossip.
Don’t let that happen to you. If you cannot be certain you will act in a particular way given any number of criteria, don’t state publicly (or implicitly) that you will. People can forgive a moment of weakness but not a lack of moral character.
3. Be yourself – If you live according to a false persona and act one way in public and another in private, it will be found out. I want to be led by an authentic person, not by someone who is acting a certain way because a public relations firm thinks it is best. You feel the same way.
If you are from the South, be from the South. Keep your accent. If you were raised in a military family, be rigid and orderly. Don’t change.
Some people may not like you. That’s okay. Not everyone will like you. You can still be respected.
You Don’t Need to Be a Leader to Earn Respect
The items above are applicable to anyone. You don’t need to have a formal leadership position to earn respect or be respected.
You should hope to be respected by your peers and your leaders. I hope I am. I have worked and continue to work hard to earn their respect.
If you are in an entry-level position, you should want to be respected. You will not be promoted unless you earn respect. If you are in a leadership position, you should want more respect. The more respect each of us earns, the more influence we can have on others.