This month I decided to write about respect, because every day I am seeing so many examples of disrespect. It has been mind boggling.
A major part of leadership is offering and earning respect. Respect, like trust, is not something that you cannot ask for or demand. It comes over time from aligned action, compassion, and the respect you give others.
Bryant H. McGill said, “One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” I would add that it matters how and what you do with people’s words as well.
What Gets in the Way….
Sometimes we don’t know that we are being disrespectful because of our individual blindspots. For example, one blindspot is that everyone is similar to us. They are not. No two people are alike or have the same feelings or beliefs. I have a set of twin grandchildren and they are unique and distinct people. We live in an ever-changing and diverse world. And to make things more complex, often what is acceptable in one setting is offensive in another even when the people are the same. Culture, values, beliefs, customs, and more, all figure into what is acceptable.
Sometimes we just don’t care. We don’t want to change. Or we feel we have enough power that we don’t have to accommodate others’ differences. This happens in business settings, at our churches, grocery stores, and at home. Someone decides to exert their power over others – employees, community members, or family members – without regard for their humanity.
Sometimes we take others for granted and lose sight of their humanity. I think part of the great resignation is about respect. People are saying with their actions that they are no longer willing to be dehumanized in order to put food on the table. They want some respect paid to their humanity. They want some equity in the sharing of wealth and how their labor is valued.
I have also noticed that the isolation of COVID has made us forget our manners. Manners and kindness are important for society to function. When we use “magic” words like excuse me, please, and thank you, we show the other person respect and care. When we are not patient in waiting our turn in line or on the road, we show disrespect for others’ right to be. As a leader, we show respect for those in our organizations by using these words and taking others’ situations in consideration.
What kind of leader do you want to be?
I have learned so much about compassion and respect for people’s humanity from two of my clients this past year. One activist client has been making accommodations and recalibrating expectations based on what is happening in her team members’ lives, especially during COVID. Attending to her team’s mental health and well-being and their real needs even if she couldn’t do anything to accommodate those needs. The other client that comes to mind, moved to a 4-day work week for his organization through the recognition that his team was close to burnout and that they needed more personal time to rest and attend to their families. Even when his team members work long hours or sneak in meetings or emails on Fridays or Mondays (their choice for their day off), he is clear that their dedication is balanced by the fact that they know their well-being is being taken into consideration by the organization’s leaders.
We each get to decide what kind of leader we want to be in our formal and informal leadership roles and as human beings. I want to encourage you to take time to think about the impact you want to make with your energy and your life and be intentional about your choices and behaviors as you craft your leadership through aligned thinking and aligned action over time.