The challenge of leadership is to be strong but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not a bully; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor but without folly.” Jim Rohn
While someone may have advanced in their organization to a level of leadership at an organization, that alone will not earn them respect. Their title and position, corner office may earn them extra pay and benefits but respect is something that does not automatically come with the position. It has to be earned and is one of the most difficult things for a leader to acquire. Respected leaders are not always liked by everyone and not always popular.
A leader may be well-liked as a person, yet be a weak leader who is afraid to make difficult decisions, shows favoritism to those who stroke his/her ego and be quite ineffective. On the other hand, there are leaders who intimidate their subordinates and use fear as a way of getting things done. None of these leaders will earn the respect of their followers.
If we take a closer look at leaders who have walked the difficult path that has earned them the respect we will see the following traits.
Willing to do or have done what they expect others to do.
Leaders should not ask others to do something that they have not done in the past nor would they be willing to do. They lead by example and their efforts will set a standard for the rest of the organization. If they are unwilling to put in the extra time and effort into a project that they expect of their staff they will be seen as hypocrites and lose the respect of those under them. Leaders who are highly respected will put in at least as much time and effort as those that they serve. Often they will lead by being the hardest working person on their team.
A high degree of self-awareness
Respected leaders have a healthy dose of emotional intelligence and are aware of how they come across and how their words and actions impact others. They use this self-awareness in giving feedback by looking for sincere opportunities to praise the work of others. They monitor their emotions and never speak or act when highly emotionally, waiting until they have regained control and had time to think the situation over.
A belief that people are striving to do their best
When having to give negative feedback they look for opportunities to turn it into a learning and growth opportunity for the employee rather than a form of punishment. They would rather be wrong about someone they thought had potential than miss an opportunity to bring out the best in one of their staff. Their motto is to believe in and trusts those they are in charge of until they are proven wrong.
Give credit where it is due and do what is right instead of popular.
Well respected leaders are confident and well-grounded, secure in who they are and their abilities. As a result, they don’t run away from making tough decisions even though they may not be popular. When things are going well they look for ways to give credit to their staff rather than trying to take all the credit themselves. Even when it is their idea that is successful, they try to deflect credit and shine it on those who implemented it. When a tough decision needs to be made they make it quickly and avoid blaming others. Their strong sense of who they are helps them make decisions which they realize may make them unpopular and disliked at times.
Admit their mistakes and take responsibility when things don’t go as expected
While it may be easier to try and weasel out of taking responsibility and try to put the place on others when things go south, respected leaders always take the higher road. They take responsibility even when mistakes were made by someone reporting to them and it would be easy to shift the responsibility. The buck stops here is a motto that they do more than pay lip service to, they live it. They have their people’s backs and are willing to defend them to those above them when necessary.
Support their people and don’t show favoritism
Insecure leaders want people around them who will not threaten or challenge them and will promote yes people under them. Respected leaders see being challenged and new ideas as a way of helping them grow and become better leaders and people. They are in constant learning, growing mode and are supportive of staff that shows initiative. While it is tempting to favor people who stroke our egos, respected leaders rise above that and make a sincere attempt to reward talent, hard work regardless of their personal feelings about the person.
Not afraid to take risks, are open and honest, and encourage those under them to do so
Respected leaders are willing to take risks and live with the consequences, realizing that without some risk there will be no growth, only stagnation. They encourage those they are leading to take risks and stand behind them when things don’t work out as planned. They believe that openness and honesty are the best way to operate and encourage others to come to them when things have gone wrong instead of trying to hide the problem because they are afraid of repercussions.