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Does Your Team Respect Your Leadership?

I ask leaders which is more important, to be liked or to be respected? Most say to be respected. In respecting leadership authority, you may not agree with every decision made, but the office of the leader should be respected. Those who are more concerned about being liked will lose respect as getting people to like you often requires compromise. Leadership is not a popularity contest. Leaders who are respected provide strength of character that motivates people to be their best and moves the organization toward achieving goals. I do not have to like you to respect you. I need only to trust your leadership will take me where I need to go personally and professionally.

We assume respect should only be given to people who demonstrate "perfection" in their assignment. If that were true, no one would be respected. Perfect does not mean without fault. Perfect means mature. Maturity is demonstrated in attitude, behavior, and speech. Mature leaders are consistent in each of these, garnering them the respect they deserve; however, a leader must not be disrespected in their assignment. Disrespect affects relationships and willingness to follow. Disrespect sets a poor example for others who look to leadership for guidance and direction.

Respect must be taught. I learned respect from my mother and my father. I respected and valued the roles they had in my life, even if I did not appreciate their directives. I was also taught to respect teachers, police officers, principals, pastors, coaches, other parents, community leaders, and any person holding leadership titles. It did not matter how well they did their assignments. They were to be respected at all times and their authority could be questioned, but not disrespected. I was taught to follow their direction because they were leaders, even if they were wrong.

Respect requires distance between you and those you manage. Your team must see you as their leader, not their peer and your interaction must be consistent. I learned as a young leader that you cannot be buddies or pal around with those you lead. Familiarity breeds contempt. Issues of your character may be exposed causing those you lead to question your maturity. You never want those you lead to question where you are headed. You want your team to trust you, your ability, your values, and ethics. One of the greatest compliments I received as a leader came from my wife. A few Christmases ago, I suggested that we share one thing we were thankful for in each other before we opened our gifts. My wife said, "I was consistent."

The inconsistency by leaders in our world causes people to question authority, authority that is needed for life balance and personal discipline. Many leaders are disrespected not because they cannot lead, but because their character is out of alignment with the values they claim to represent. My mother often told me, "people would rather see a sermon than hear a sermon any day." What are we preaching and who is listening? If you are in a leadership position, commit to demonstrating a consistent example. You won't please everyone, but a Chinese proverb says, "he who tries to please everyone pleases no one." Work hard to gain trust and respect for the position you hold. People are looking and depending on you.

Three important ways to gain respect:

  1. Speak to people with appropriate language. Your words should be motivating, encouraging, and uplifting. People will tune you out if you do not speak with language that is condemning and not respectful. Respect the office and the person who holds it.

  2. Be mindful of your role. Leaders lead from the front. Demonstrate leadership character responsibly. Make decisions with confidence and assurance. People are looking to you for guidance. Demonstrate confidence in your ability.

  3. Don't compromise to become popular. Maintain your standards. Your team will follow you if you are consistent in what you believe. Bend, but don't break. Be who you are, not who people want or expect you to be.

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