By Chris Gandy
I was watching Aretha Franklin belt out R-E-S-P-E-C-T in an umpteenth rerun of the Blues Brothers movie the other night and couldn’t but help think how this song was probably sending leaders mixed messages.
On the one hand, it strongly reinforces our human need to be respected – particularly as Aretha presents it.
From a leadership perspective it is absolutely critical that we have respect – without we are dead in the water. However, on the other hand by implying that all you need to do is implore your audience to “gimé some respect” belongs in management dreamland. Jump on the table at your next management meeting and lip-sync the song and see whether it works!
Unfortunately no matter how good a singer or mover you are, respect needs to be earned – there is no flashy shortcut. So how do we do it?
Plenty has been written about the ways to earn respect and if you are interested in the topic I would encourage you to do a bit of googling on the matter. What I did for a bit of fun was to think of 4 or 5 leaders I have worked for and highly respected. I then scribble down why I held them in such a high regard. Here is a summary of the qualities they all displayed:
1. Give it to receive it – All showed the utmost respect for their peers, superiors, subordinates, suppliers. They respected the people they dealt with and others returned the compliment.
2. Rhetoric matched reality – If they said they were going to do something they did it. If they had a vision for their area of responsibility they turned it into a reality. Also in terms of organisational values, they didn’t just preach them they practiced them.
3. Sincere – They took a genuine interest in others. And they truly listened to what you had to say.
4. No cutting corners – None of them adopted a “near enough is good enough” approach. Nor did they accept that the ends justifies the mean”. There was a high level of integrity about all of them
5. Disdain for office politics – They just didn’t get involved in gossip and weren’t interested in knowing who did what to whom unless it involved bullying or effected team performance. Come to think of it there was very little of these sorts of unproductive shenanigans in the areas they managed – funny about that!
6 Knew their stuff – They had an excellent technical grasp of their subject area and all were seen as “go to people” on certain subjects. In terms of specialist expertise, some were very narrow, but it did wondered for the respect they generated.
7. Bearing – No sure about this one as I had a small sample but all in my mind had an impressive bearing. They stood straight, were well groomed, they oozed energy.
What other qualities have been displayed by leaders you have highly respected?
About Chris: Chris Gandy is the founder and director of Cause and Effective – a provider of contingent resourcing and leadership search services to cause-based organisations.