H.E.A.R.: Earn Respect

I am excited to write this post to close the loop on my H.E.A.R. leadership philosophy by talking about its fourth and final pillar, Respect. My entire leadership style revolves around one idea: Before you can lead in any area, you first have to live it and accept it. This kind of leadership can change not only your life, but the lives of others as well.

As the H.E.A.R. philosophy goes, in order to be Honest and expect honesty from others, you first have to be honest with yourself. Before you can be an Empathetic leader, you first have to listen and understand what your teams are saying and thinking, and why. Before you can hold others Accountable, you first must hold yourself accountable and lead by example. Those principles all lead up to the final, and probably most important, stage: You first must Respect yourself and respect others before you can be worthy of their respect in return.

You may think that all leaders would have (and show) a certain level of respect for their teams, but, unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Remember, most leaders are promoted because of their exceptional individual contributions, and then they have to learn the hard way that coaches do not win – their teams win! Successful leaders are the ones who are able to figure out early that their job is first and foremost to make their team successful.

In the next paragraphs, I will try and break down some of Respect’s many layers and nuances.

You have to earn it

Building on the saying that “in order to be trusted, you first have to trust,” I firmly believe that “in order to be respected, you first have to respect.” This sounds easier than it really is, and this is why so many leaders struggle to fully succeed. Many of them step into their new role with the expectation that with their title comes pre-packaged respect. It’s actually quite the opposite – you have to earn respect from your team. People respect others based on their actions, and if you, as a leader, think that you are owed some level of respect just because of your position on the organizational chart, you are setting yourself up for failure.

In a leadership role, your actions are amplified far more than you may be aware.  As you continue up the corporate ladder, if you are not taking every opportunity to speak with and manage with respect, that’s what everyone will eventually see. If your teams don’t feel respected, they’ll be less inclined to respect you back, which ultimately leads to poor communication and lost productivity. (Incidentally, I’ve always found that a key indicator of future leaders’ ability to lead and put their team first is how well, or poorly, they treat people they don’t have to be nice to – from the freshly hired intern to the hostess at the local restaurant.)

Be comfortable in your own skin

You first must respect yourself before you can respect others. It’s amazing to me how true this is. I’m friends with, have worked for or with, or interviewed thousands of highly qualified, well-paid, very successful leaders. Without a doubt, every one of them who was disrespectful to others had an underlying issue with self-confidence. It was almost as if they felt that they could gain respect and attention by disrespecting and belittling others – even if it was unintentional. The more confidence leaders have and the more self-aware and self-respecting they are, the more they are respectful of others (and usually, the stronger their worth ethic).

The fallacy of fear

One of the biggest misconceptions I often have to address with new leaders is their belief that managing through fear will drive more respect, accountability, and productivity. Fear is never a sustainable driver. Fear won’t earn your team’s trust or respect. It might spur them to follow your lead for a time, but they won’t see you as worthy of their respect – or their loyalty. Of course, fear can be an appropriate response in some situations, as in “Team, we are going to lose this account if we don’t perform.” But using fear to manipulate your team into compliance will only lead to stalled productivity, disengaged employees, higher than average turnover, and eventually, missed goals. Leading with an emphasis on respect rather than fear makes it very hard for you to fall into this trap.

Manage your mood

I’ve saved the most important item for last – I have to admit, once in a while, if I’m having a bad day, I have to pay more attention to my words (and actions) than normal, to ensure that neither will cause more long-term collateral damage than short-term gain. I always try to follow the philosophy, “publicly praise, privately criticize,” because it’s a great way to demonstrate respect. When you are tired, stressed, or just not having the best day, you can accidentally do a lot of damage to your team’s level of mutual respect. Understanding and acknowledging your own state of mind will enable you to work around it and in spite of it. As a leader, you need to be the rock for your team. The more consistent you are, the more people will respect you and follow you to the ends of the earth.

There are of course many, many more attributes that great leaders need to have, but if you take the time to learn, digest, and practice the H.E.A.R. Leadership philosophy, you will be well on your way to becoming someone who positively affects the lives of the people you work with (and even live with).

Personally, I enjoy making a difference as a leader, and I am constantly improving the way I lead to keep earning my teams’ respect and trust, day after day.

As I continue to write this blog on how we can all become better leaders, resulting in happier, more productive employees, feel free to use the comments section to let me know if there are any specific topics you would like me to cover!

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