Being a leader means many things: having the necessary expertise to perform your role, overseeing the efforts of others, with a balance of support and direction; and fostering an environment that allows people and the organization to perform at their very best. This is a tall order for any executive, and at the end of the day, real success is only generated in situations where a leader is able to provide compelling reasons for others to follow, as well as fulfill their role.
An integral part of this process is generating respect, not just in how an executive performs in their role, but also in terms of how they treat others. This doesn’t mean behaving in a manner designed to win a popularity contest (being an executive often involves making decisions that might not be particularly popular); but rather, approaching a leadership role in a fair and balanced way and with respect. Although executive workdays are often characterized by too much to do and too many requests to do even more, successful executives recognize that they are always “on” and how they approach their role and interact with others is in full display at all times. Yes, living in the executive fishbowl can be a lot to handle.
In this series, we have already considered the importance of a number of skills, including collaboration, risk management, and professional development. Here’s more about the importance of developing and maintaining respect at the executive level.
Where it Goes Wrong
Although there are leaders out there who can generate results by using less than desirable tactics (think fear, intimidation, and other forms of pressure), this approach is far from acceptable and is not sustainable in the long run. After all, who wants to work for these people? The reality is that everyone in an organization has an important job to do, and companies need people at all levels; this means that all roles are deserving of respect, provided that they are conducted in a respectful manner.
Executive roles, by their very nature, typically impact a wide range of people, both inside and outside of a company. Those who don’t take the time and effort (or don’t have the skills) to treat others in a consistently respectful manner ultimately take more from an organization than they provide. It doesn’t mean that the parties have to like each other; but staff members, as an example, need to know that a leader will view business situations in a fair manner, be humane, and not bring personal bias into the mix. Having said that, those who approach planning for an executive role thoughtfully have the opportunity to bring so much more to a leadership role.
Generating respect from others is something that won’t happen overnight, which is one of the reasons why it is so important to adopt the right mindset now to ensure great preparation in advance of stepping into an executive role. Here’s how to get started:
- Keep a long memory. You should be able to relate to many of the people in your workplace by virtue of having held less senior roles earlier in your career. By never forgetting the issues relating to those roles and what was important at that moment in time, you will be in a better position to relate to those who are currently in the job.
- Practice empathy. Remember the human aspect of any organization. Simply put, people are people; they have the same kinds of hopes, dreams, and feelings deep down that many of us do. A big part of respect is treating people humanely, regardless of the situation at hand. Even in bad times, people will remember those who treated them with grace and respect.
- Put things in context. Not everything in business life is critical, but many things are important. Let recognizing situations for what they are and not overreacting be your norm. Taking the time to fully consider the situation and reacting in a professional and pragmatic manner can help to generate respect.
- Do your job well. Competence is important in generating respect, as it’s difficult to look up to someone if they aren’t very good at what they do. Respect isn’t about high-fives and fist-bumps around the office; it has many layers and is far more complex than that. Be the person who can always be counted on to get the job done.
- Pay careful attention to role models. Observing experienced executives in terms of how they handle all types of situations and the human element throughout is a great way to learn; both in terms of the leader you want to be and behaviors you never want to repeat. Well respected executives are easy to spot.
Remember that respect is a two way street; you have to give it to earn it, and around it goes. At the end of a difficult day, you will be glad that you have this important skill in your corner.