[May 8, 2020] Let’s begin with an admission; it is not possible to force people to respect you. We all would like to be respected, so what does it take for leaders to gain respect? The reasons we “want” respect are irrelevant for our discussion here, but I do believe that desire is a distant, deep-seated psychological need.
In this two-part series, I attempt to answer the question, “How do senior leaders gain respect?” Note, my attempt to answer the question is about senior leaders but applies to anyone, leader or not. I hope you gain something from the discussion and any comments are appreciated.
Not that long ago, I was surprised to see a young U.S. Air Force Colonel who came to help my Engineer section design a bridge over the Tigris River in Baghdad, Iraq. She had a degree in Civil Engineering from Stanford University and was considered the best person for the job.
We were all amazed by this USAF Engineer Colonel; the way she projected authority, her in-depth knowledge of engineering, and she came to us highly recommended by senior Air Force brass. We learned something from her. You will read some of it in these articles.
There are three ways that we can increase the probability that people will respect us. Today, I’ll start with the most important:
- Pacing reality: Psychologists use this term and I have found it valuable in this description. It means when in a conversation with others, take it slow, and acknowledge what the other person is thinking. Listen closely. Show them they have robust and valid reasoning and opinions. Show how important they are to you and that they have something important you can learn. Do so honestly; this cannot be faked (at least not very well). This makes people more open to changing their minds (if you are trying to persuade them) and also have a better judgment of you. Don’t allow them to feel dumb or unimportant. “Winning” an argument or “one-upmanship” does not work that well and can is the opposite of pacing reality. In this sense, winning does not help you achieve respect. One especially effective technique in conversation about a specific topic of interest is to propose a hypothetical and answer it logically and politely while using the ideas of that other person. Be sure not to denigrate the other person or their beliefs. Show them you are trying to help. Understand the other person and give them credit for doing their best to figure things out, even if you disagree.
Respect is an important topic and, in the past, I wrote about it several times in this blog (see links here, here, and here). I hope these can give a good sense of my philosophy on respect and its importance to smoothing relationships, creating efficiencies, and reducing emotional obstacles.
Tomorrow, I will discuss the final two ways senior leaders can gain respect.
On a side note, today is Victory in Europe Day (VE-Day). Seventy Five years ago today, Nazi Germany surrendered.