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If once you forfeit the confidence of your fellow-citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem.
Abraham Lincoln

Too many chiefs, and not enough indians, as my beautiful wife is known to say. Everyone wants, expects, and demands respect, but do they really understand what getting respect is all about?

I have run into so many older executives and people who are currently in, or used to be in positions of leadership and authority lately. I am finding that far too many of them demand respect from everyone they encounter, because of their past accomplishments and positions. This is played out with an attitude of arrogance and overbearing expectations. The result? A total loss of respect from everyone they deal with.

Do these people deserve respect? Yes, but only to a point. They have done some good works in the past, and have obviously gotten to a time and position in life where they can enjoy the fruits of their labor. But, being a demanding jerk just won't do it. Younger people can get one of two things from this attitude.

  1. So, when I get where they are, this is how I'll get to be!
  2. Wow, what an ass. I hope I never treat someone else like I've just been treated!

Great! Good accomplishment here. The buzzword of our time is "servant leader". This isn't it. Check your attitude and your motivation. You may be in a position of authority, but our greatest leaders have this thing called humility. They don't demand or expect others respect, they earn it. And by having a humble heart, they are absolutely given respect.

How can you go about earning respect from your people?

  • Check your attitude. You can choose what your demeanor will be.
  • Own up to mistakes. If you have done something wrong, or treated someone else poorly, own up to it. Admit you're wrong, and make it right. This is a massive boost to morale. When your people see that you are human, AND that you admit it, they will appreciate you so much more.
  • Choose the words you use well. You can make or break a relationship with them. You don't have license to demand, demean, and berate someone else only because of your position.
  • You can be tough, just not all the time. They need to see that your heart isn't made of stone.
  • The really brave, and most confident, will consider the feedback of their people.

Leadership is a privilege, not a right. If you are, or have been in leadership, your position entitles you to one thing and one thing only. That is setting the example, and showing your people the way.  Remember, you get a new chance to do just that every day.

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