Respect is a leadership quality that must be earned, not demanded. While there are several qualities inherent in all good leaders, their ability to earn respect is most important. Many feel that having a title before or after their name deserves respect—there is a difference between being shown respect and commanding respect.
We are all accustomed to showing respect. We say “please” and “thank you,” we hold doors for the elderly, we address our superiors as “Mr.” and “Mrs.” In addition, we salute the flag, we are quiet in church, and we are attentive in class. All these actions, while commendable, are acts of showing respect. Showing respect is not necessarily a leadership quality; it is most likely a rule or how we are conditioned as we learn our life lessons.
An Army officer demands respect from his troops; a police officer demands respect from criminals and citizens, the Pope demands respect from other clergymen in the Dioceses, and John G. Roberts, Jr. and other judges demand respect from those over whom they preside. While all these are situations of respect, none of those mentioned may command any more or less respect than the other. While demanding respect is often a leadership quality of the position, it is not indicative of a true leader.
In The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell has combined insights learned from his thirty-plus years of leadership successes and mistakes with observations from the worlds of business, politics, sports, religion, and military conduct. The result is a revealing study of leadership delivered as only a communicator like Maxwell can.
The leadership quality of the most successful man or woman is the ability to command respect. These people are not embarrassed to admit they are wrong, are not uncompassionate, and are not afraid to roll up their sleeve, kick off their shoes, and help to get things done. This leadership quality is seen in very few high executives, but those who have the respect of others go farther, faster. In addition, leaders who know how to make their team members look or feel good, find a higher level of cooperation when it is needed or expected.
Respect is such an important leadership quality that it should be taught from nursery school to executive-level management. Respect is so much more valuable than forced leadership that those who know how to use their positions to make other people look good—are the people who are on their way. Respect means different things to different people, but the most respected are those with a smile and a wave, an open-door policy, an ear for ideas that may be unconventional, and who absolutely put their workers and team members in line with the goal of the business.