I knew a great man once. He had amassed a great fortune growing his own company. Loyal friends and supporters surrounded him. He asked me to consult by taking a look at his business and giving him feedback. His friends and loyal supporters were fearful and jealous. I only had to test it once – I said something that could be interpreted several ways to one subordinate and soon his team had used that to launch an ejection campaign to remove me. I asked him if he believed I would say something negative to a subordinate without a purpose and he said “goodbye.”

Your subordinates have an interest in keeping you the way you are and they don’t like you changing for the better.

But if you want to do the one thing that will change everything, you must become the person who achieves success through others. You must become extremely interested in supporting those who work at your company to achieve their own successes. You must serve their higher good and achieve results through them. This is the fundamental change in thinking that our offshore competitors are hoping we never discover.

Simply commit to change your mind and your actions will fall into line over time behind that. And eventually people will give up and allow you to change.


A good starting definition for respect is, “A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” It seems like a fitting definition when we think about the leaders we have known – those we respect and those we do not.

But thinking more deeply about the subject, we may realize that we never found it easy to respect those who did not respect us. Leaders are able to trigger deep-seated memories – you might even say “cellular memories” – memories that are so engrained into our consciousness (even though many of these might be subconscious) and beliefs that we can hardly escape the similarities between the leader and those earlier memories.

Leaders can trigger memories of mistreatment by a parent, a teacher, a bully, a boss, and more. Anytime someone has a natural “positional power” over you – one born of an organizational chart – they automatically become the victim of the negative memories of those they lead.

And so people come to work pre-disposed to react poorly to a leader who doesn’t show respect.

And, it could be said that people crave respect more than they are willing to give it.

While leaving a club late in the city, we walked to the valet stand where a single young man stood ready to retrieve our car. As we stood in the street waiting we became aware of several young men and a woman moving toward us across the street. They walked up to us and stood closely to address us. They were dressed as people who might have lived on the street or in a car for while. They seemed nervous – asking where we had come from and what we were waiting for. It was clear that they were desperate and intended to do us harm. The respect we showed them disarmed them. Our kindness and fearlessness brought back memories of a parent or teacher who also respected them. Their conviction to act was softening. We asked if they needed help and their immediate reaction was “no” but after consideration they said they could use some money. We gave them $20 and they thanked us profusely and moved away with fond farewells.

Respect is so rare in the world as to disarm those who have all but given up their pursuit of it.

The “Urban Dictionary” defines respect as…

“It means valuing each others points of views. It means being open to being wrong. It means accepting people as they are. It means not dumping on someone because you’re having a bad day. It means being polite and kind always, because being kind to people is not negotiable. It means not dissing people because they’re different to you. It means not gossiping about people or spreading lies.”

Leaders who are disrespectful to others collect followers who are willing to be disrespected. Over time, anyone who truly respects themselves will find other places to be leaving those who do not.

What kinds of people are attracted to leaders who have a fundamental respect for others?

I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.
Jackie Robinson

Knowledge will give you power, but character respect.
Bruce Lee

It’s true that people are prone to respect a principled leader – a leader with character.

Some textbook definitions for character are:

  1. The aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing.
  2. One such feature or trait; characteristic.
  3. Moral or ethical quality: a man of fine, honorable character.
  4. Qualities of honesty, courage, or the like; integrity: It takes character to face up to a bully.
  5. Reputation: a stain on one’s character.

The best leaders have a “code” of sorts – a list of values that they intend to use to guide their actions. Some typical values to live by as a leader are:

Integrity – I’m going to say what I mean and do what I say.

Honesty – I’m going to be straight-forward with my feelings and intentions.

Respectful – I’m going to respect and be kind to everyone and not allow fear or anger to get the best of me.

You may have a more extensive list of values but the point is, even if you were to fully accomplish these three, most people would follow you to the ends of the earth.

If you develop your own personal “code” and focus on evaluating yourself daily on how you exemplified your values, you would find that the reaction you begin to see from others would re-enforce your commitment to change.


Leading a small business is a different challenge from leading a larger business. But both jobs require some of the same skills and qualities, just exercised on a much smaller scale.

Having people follow you out of respect is a rewarding experience. Leading others correctly make a huge contribution to hundreds of workers and in turn their families. Those who work for you take good examples of leadership home. The impact of good leadership is felt at work as well as at home.

Good leadership makes a contribution to everyone and develops leadership within your own business. A good bench strength of leadership in your business multiplies your benefits because the lack of good leadership in small business severely constrained the building of a high-performance enterprise.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s