To Get Respect, You Must Give Respect

By | April 7, 2019

[April 7, 2019] The old and grizzled Sergeant Major, Korea and Vietnam War veteran, was talking last week with a group of young college students. Just out of luck, I happened by and overheard that gravelly voice one would expect from such a man. He was giving them some basic advice; to get respect, you must be willing to give respect.

As I sat down in the back of the college cafeteria, I heard his impromptu message about how the U.S. Marines Corps had changed. He was certainly not enthralling them with “war stories” or “combat adventures.” USMC Sergeant Major William McBlankenship was a hard man in every sense of the word. Despite being much older than everyone else in the vicinity – and tougher – it was his severe demeanor and booming voice that attracted a crowd of students and a few faculty.

His message about respect knocked me a little off guard. Today, many senior members of the U.S. military still consider the recent trend in teaching respect to overemphasize it to the detriment of tactical training of the force. The modern military is being pushed hard to demonstrate respect at all times. This is an extension of their early training on Consideration of Others that was popular in the 1990s.

Core values of the U.S. Marine Corps are honor, courage, and commitment.1,2 Respect doesn’t even show up in the list. But that was the point of Sgt Major McBlankenship and why he was pounding his fist on the tables. Honor, he noted, requires a Marine never to lie, cheat, or steal. “This means,” he said, “an uncompromising code of integrity, respect for human dignity, and respect and concern for each other.”

We can all appreciate a U.S. Marine Corps standard comment that “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” The Sergeant Major was poking his finger in the air at each of the college students and telling them (almost yelling) that it takes more than studying hard to be a good person but that it also takes giving respect to others because there is no other way you will get it.


Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

20 thoughts on “To Get Respect, You Must Give Respect

  1. Kenny Foster

    Correct! If you don’t give respect to others (and make it obvious), the odds are that others will not bestow respect onto you. Thanks for a successful and readable blog about leadership.

    1. Gil Johnson

      Kenny, yes and I agree that you must make it obvious that you respect people (even if you really don’t respect them). An outwardly display of kindness and manners are the best way.

    2. JT Patterson

      I think Gen. Sattefield wrote this sometime back in another article. The issue was ‘showing’ respect; not just having it.

  2. Maureen S. Sullivan

    I’m sure the USMC Sergeant Major remembered Aretha Franklin’s song too. Perfect complement to the US Armed Forces.

    1. Nick Lighthouse

      I was thinking exactly the same thing. She was one of the greatest singers. Her voice was mesmerizing.

  3. Greg Heyman

    Everytime I see the word ‘respect’ I think of Aretha Franklin’s song RESPECT. It takes me back to the year 1967 when she first recorded it. Thanks for the trip back in time.

  4. Willie Shrumburger

    I agree with others here that you have managed to put together a major source of leadership info for anyone interested in improving what they do. Leaders, esp junior leaders, should heed your advice.

  5. Eric Coda

    Got it, well done. I always enjoy reading your blog. I suggest for a future topic that you consider comparing how the characteristics of leaders compares to the tenets of the major US military services. That would be most interesting.

    1. Eddie Ray Anderson, Jr.

      Yes, an intesting topic for the future. Does Gen Satterfield take suggestions?

  6. AutisticTechie

    Thanks for another worthy article. I put this one in my box of stories to share. Much appreciated and spot-on.

  7. Max Foster

    Duty, Honor, Country Gen. Douglas McArthur’s speech to the Corps of Cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., May 12, 1962, in accepting the Thayer Award. Gen. MacArthur, to my knowledge, never spoke of “respect” directly but you can read it in his words. Read his writings and listen to his lectures. It comes out clearly. The idea of respect has always been there but it is manifested in ways that are not so obvious.

    1. Andrew Dooley

      Good point, Max. Thanks again for focusing on the relevant ideas and drawing them out.

  8. Yusaf from Texas

    Great article. This is why I keep coming back to

  9. Fred Weber

    I rarely run into Marine veterans these days. Maybe it’s just bad luck on my part but I would have enjoyed speaking to this Sgt Major McBlankenship myself. I’m sure he has plenty of experience and wisdom to share.

  10. Georgie M.

    Wow, you were certainly lucky to get to hear this man. Where was it? In a college near where you live? Thanks for sharing your experience.

    1. Georgie M.

      Thank you for responding. 🙂 🙂 🙂

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