Respect and leadership go hand in hand. It's a fundamental principle: To lead others, you first have to earn their respect. But it goes much deeper. Great leadership creates a climate of respect, an environment that sets high standards and supports everyone in doing their best.
Unfortunately, there are no short cuts to respect. It has to be earned and maintained and nurtured. But there are things you can do to make sure you're on track during the process. Here are some of the most important:
1. Set an example. Respect is circular. To earn it, you have to give it. The respect you show to others not only models how you'd like them to treat you and each other but also reflects your own self-respect. The principle of respect should guide your actions every day.
2. Leave your ego behind. Ego is a social mask we wear when we have to play a role. It thrives on approval, control and power because it's grounded in fear. Let go of worrying about how you're perceived and whether you're getting the credit you deserve. Focus on your mission and your team.
3. Have consistency of character. When you're consistent--when people know what to expect from you--they will be equally consistent in their respect for you and your leadership. Stay accountable and responsible and keep your words and actions aligned. Consistency is a commitment, but it's a lot easier and more effective than faking it.
4. Simplify the complicated. When you make things more complicated than they have to be, you sacrifice transparency and lose respect. When an issue is genuinely complex, pare it back to be as simple much as possible or break it up into smaller pieces. And when something is already simple, don't allow it to unnecessarily grow into something more complex. Simplicity makes it much easier to be transparent, and transparency engenders trust and respect.
5. Be trustworthy. Trustworthiness has two components--doing the right things and doing things right. It's the foundation of respect, central to any effective leader. Tell the truth, be open and thoughtful, and have the courage to do the right thing even when it's not easy.
6. Build respect into your communication. When you speak, the tone you use and the way you express yourself are almost as important as the words you say. Every element of your communication matters, whether it's spoken or written, public or private. Be especially mindful of your tone--is it positive and respectful? Communicate with the utmost respect and you'll find others doing the same for you.
Remember, gaining respect isn't something you can check off a list. It's something you have to practice daily. But working to keep yourself in line with giving and gaining respect is one of the most important things you can do in leadership.