What can you do to encourage respect?
Leadership is a complex subject, but there are core elements without which no leader can progress. One of the most important of these elements is respect. Every leader needs it, but it is not something that can be commanded. True respect must be earned. Demanding respect that is not earned will merely create a veneer. It won’t foster an environment where a leader is truly respected by their team and can be seen as akin to bullying.
So what can you do as a leader to cultivate the respect of your team? Great benefits and flexible work environments can foster a sense of community amongst employees, but six essential core traits every leader can practice will help foster an environment of respect. By creating what I like to call a cycle of respect, the effects will trickle through the company and help encourage an environment that is not only conducive to good business, but also helps employees feel empowered and respected.
Give Credit Where It's Due.
A leader who points out the successes of their staff and recognizes their contributions to the overall success of the company earns respect by recognizing that one another’s success doesn't diminish the leader’s own prestige. Having a competent, capable team that is rewarded for its good work is the sign of a great leader who can see the forest for the trees. By recognizing their team’s achievements, a great leader encourages both competition and collaboration amongst team members as they strive to improve their own performance, setting the example. When you call out the achievements of the team, you raise up the collective whole.
Follow Through on Commitments.
There's no quicker way to lose respect than to promise something and then fail to deliver. This is true at any point on the corporate ladder, but from a leadership perspective, with the weight of authority behind you, a failed promise can hurt just like an outright lie. Moreover, it implies a lack of respect for everyone on the team because leaders who make capricious promises and retractions violate the trust placed in their word.
To foster an environment of respect, it pays to follow through on your commitments no matter how large or small. Your team will learn to trust you. You’ll show that your word is gold and that you can be counted on to deliver on your promises. This kind of action can foster a sense of safety within teams, which in turn can lead to innovation. When employees feel safe knowing that their leader has their back, they feel safe to take more risk and move the company forward.
Admit Fault and Take Responsibility.
You may think that admitting fault is one sure way to show weakness as a leader, but you’d be mistaken. When—not if—you do fail to execute your own responsibilities to perfection, it's important not to give into the temptation to pass off blame to less-senior personnel. Barring unusual circumstances, the leader is just as responsible for failures as wins. None of us are perfect, and none of us can expect perfection from others—even leaders. Acknowledging that to your team is what makes it a team, rather than a dictatorship, where regardless of the outcome, the leader must remain faultless.
One thing to remember about leading a team is that we are all human. We make mistakes and missteps. Admitting to those and owning them is part of being human. When your team sees that you are capable of critical thinking and developing your own performance, they will respect you for your efforts.
Cultivate Capable Team Members, Not "Yes" People.
It feels good when a member of your staff finds your ideas brilliant. It can be much harder to listen to disagreement or criticism, however, even though that might be exactly what you need to hear. Cultivating capable team members who know to speak their minds will cultivate more respect among the staff as a whole by showing your own desire to grow and learn continually. Being open to opposing viewpoints—showing the respect of listening—means that even members of your staff who disagree with you can still respect you because you respect them.
Believe the Best of Your People.
Holding on to the belief that everyone around you is working their hardest to succeed can be difficult at times. But the leader who manages to assume the best of their people in this regard will approach a discussion about failure not as a recrimination, but as a collaborative effort to succeed next time by reviewing what didn't work this time. It's a small but significant shift in viewpoint that can help build a foundation of respect.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open.
At the core of all of these traits lies one absolutely essential trait—good communication. It's the only way we humans have of doing anything in a coordinated group, and yet it's surprising how often we communicate poorly. Many leaders approach communication as something that's incumbent upon the staff to do—if they want to make their voices heard, they need to come speak. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
But it's important to keep the lines of communication open in the other direction as well. If the staff has no idea what the company or its leadership is doing or what leadership’s plans are, the leader's decisions may seem capricious, unfair, or counterintuitive. But if the team shares a mission and has a clearly identifiable goal, even if that goal migrates over time, they'll better understand and respect their leader's decisions and actions within the context of the overall project. All because you decided to keep them in the loop.
Taken as a whole, these six traits will help create an environment of respect. While only tackling one won’t move the needle, having a holistic approach to leadership and being vulnerable, honest, open, and communicative, you and your team will flourish. Being a respected leader is about cultivating a sense of trust with each member of a team because trust is the foundation of true respect.
Angela “Angie” Koch is CEO of U.S. Money Reserve, one of the largest private distributors of U.S. government issued gold, silver and platinum coins. Angie oversees every aspect of operation, while setting culture and pace for the entire organization. With a proven background in business planning, strategy, mergers, acquisitions, and operations, Angie has an in-depth understanding of how to run a successful business and is credited with creating the analytic and KPI structure at U.S. Money Reserve. Believing strongly that the people make the business, Angie has positioned U.S. Money Reserve to be a trusted precious metal leader that always puts their customers and employees first.