— January 15, 2019
Bad bosses might demand respect, but true leaders make it their mission to earn it.
That’s because bosses like to talk about how great they are. They blame problems on their teams and take credit for successes that have little to do with them. Leaders, on the other hand, push their teams from the back instead of leading from the front. They take responsibility no matter the circumstances.
The world has a lot more bosses than leaders, though. Gallup found that only 18 percent of current managers possess the talent necessary for their roles.
I don’t want people to accept my leadership because I’m placed in a certain position. Instead, I want to give them a list of reasons to respect me. If my leadership style doesn’t merit respect, it’s not because my team has chosen to be disrespectful — it’s because I haven’t truly earned it.
Playing the Leadership Role
Our company recently promoted a great leader, and a part of this promotion included handling extra responsibilities. He used to manage one small group, but he now has the responsibility of managing two groups simultaneously. The original group missed his constant presence at first, and members wondered whether he would continue to give them the same consideration he had before the switch. They kept faith in their old leader, though, and he has rewarded them with his continued support.
This manager understands what many who rise through the ranks forget: Time spent together is essential. Leaders who fail to spend time with their teams inevitably lose the loyalty of the people who work for them. And if the boss doesn’t make time for the group, the group won’t see the boss as a person worthy of respect.
As important as togetherness is, though, it isn’t the only consideration. The best leaders exhibit a variety of traits that help them command respect from their teams.
1. Respectful preparation: Smart leaders respect the time of the people around them. They are never unprepared for a meeting or uneducated on the subject at hand. Although a bad boss might call a meeting and expect an employee to provide all of the context, a good leader does the necessary legwork and comes to the table ready to collaborate, not demand.
2. Thoughtful responsiveness: Although they seem similar at first glance, reactiveness and responsiveness are not the same. Reactive bosses scold employees and issue orders without considering context. Responsive leaders, however, put emotion to the side. They understand that their employees work hard and deserve to be treated with respect in every conversation. Leaders own their emotions — not the other way around.
3. Quiet confidence: People who brag usually have deeper insecurities to deal with. The best leaders don’t have to strut; they know they’re good at what they do, and their actions prove it. Managers who don’t feel comfortable in their roles must project confidence without arrogance — even if they feel nervous — to give their teams an example to follow.
4. Lasting gratitude: I almost never take credit for things our team accomplishes. Whenever someone praises our work, I always point the finger at the people on the team who pulled levers or contributed in various ways.
This doesn’t just make the team feel appreciated; it also demonstrates that I pay attention to their work and acknowledge their contributions. When something goes wrong, I take that conversation behind closed doors and provide specifics about how I’d like to see the situation handled next time.
5. Authentic empathy: Most CEOs believe their organizations exhibit the proper amount of empathy, but far fewer employees say the same. The best leaders don’t just claim to understand the burdens of their employees and go about business as usual. They take the time to listen to employee concerns and make changes where they can. By putting people over results at least some of the time, leaders prove to employees that they see value beyond productivity metrics.
6. Reliable presence: When I’m not in the office, I’m a phantom. When I’m there, though, I’m fully present (as all good leaders should be). Employees don’t need bosses who only come to work long enough to close their office doors. They need leaders who set a good example of work-life balance and are approachable during business hours.
Great leaders who command respect don’t just oversee extremely productive teams. The vast majority of employees say they need great leaders to enjoy higher levels of satisfaction at work, and this also leads to benefits like lower turnover and higher engagement.
Besides this, a mere 15 percent of U.S. workers say their leaders make them excited for what the future holds. With so many bad bosses in the world today, leaders who do right by their teams are more valuable than ever before.
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