“Disrespected leaders prioritize being accepted by others above being respected by others.” John Maxwell. Tweet this now!
Margaret Thatcher is one of my leadership heroes. She was and is, even after death, equally loathed and loved for her policies but she remained true to her beliefs.
Thatcher famously said “To me, consensus seems to be the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values, and policies in search of something in which no one believes … What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner, ‘I stand for consensus’?”
What great cause has been fought and won under the banner, ‘I stand for consensus’?” ~ Margaret Thatcher. Tweet this now!
Thatcher didn’t take actions to be liked; she did what she felt was RIGHT. That commitment to her convictions, even in the face of career-long criticism, earned her the respect of her constituents and three consecutive terms, making her the longest serving British Prime Minister in the modern era.
Early in my military career, I was advised to lean toward on earning respect and acceptance would come.
That doesn’t mean it was easy! As a commander, I took flack for some unpopular stances that reflected my core values…one in particular stands out because it had to do with another leader. In this instance, the leader had not completed the required actions to be eligible for higher-level endorsement on a performance evaluation.
In the military, the leadership light is white-hot and laser focused…not everyone can stand the heat. I’ve seen people, especially commanders, relieved for just the perception of impropriety. One word from their supervisor…“I’ve lost confidence in your ability to serve in this position” … and that person was out of a job.
At the same time, leadership is a choice; even though we are always leading ourselves, most of us CHOOSE the experience of leading others.
Now from my perspective, then and now, someone who raises a hand to lead has to do it from the front, not bring up the rear with a bunch of excuses as to why he or she is not up front! If I didn’t hold THIS leader to the standard, I couldn’t in good conscience hold ANYONE to the standard. So despite some pressure from outside my organization, I stuck to what I knew was right and fair. And earned some (grudging) respect and admiration, even from the leader whose feet I held to the fire!
Doing the right thing entailed holding this leader accountable.
While I was freed from the need to be liked early in my career, and the compromises that sometimes come along with that, I found that you gotta really kinda like your people! People know intuitively when you’re focused on yourself and not them and when you don’t care for them. I’ll explore that topic more in next week’s blog.
This week, I’m offering some sure-fire ways to ensure you have the respect of the team members you’re trying to lead!
Make Sure Your Actions Reflect Your Values
In 1982, seven Chicago area people died after ingesting cyanide laced Tylenol capsules. In response, Johnson & Johnson’s Chairman James Burke, initiated a massive $100 million recall to pull 31 million bottles of the product from store shelves and offer safer, tablet replacements.
It was an unprecedented response that earned Burke and the leadership team admiration and respect and remains a great example of a corporation acting in accordance with its values even in a crisis.
And a year later, Johnson & Johnson’s share of the market had rebounded close to its pre-crisis percentage.
The company’s swift action and transparency in outlining their response, reflected the values expressed in its credo “We believe our first responsibility is to the doctors, nurses and patients, to mothers and fathers and all others who use our products and services.” Johnson & Johnson website.
Conversely, a series of recalls starting in 2009 resulted in J&J CEO William Weldon stepping down from his post in 2012. To quote a 2010 CBS piece, “one Tylenol recall may be regarded as a misfortune. But five seems like carelessness”. The recalls, the result of quality issues, and missteps in responding, raised questions about the integrity of J&J’s leadership. Ouch! Read more about J&J’s leadership culture here!
Be Consistent In Your Treatment of Your Team
Fraternization is the term used in the military for inappropriate interaction between an officer and an enlisted member of the service. “Inappropriate” covers a wide variety of behavior that may or may not be sexual in nature but has in some way “compromised the chain of command, resulted in the appearance of partiality, or otherwise undermined good order, discipline, authority, or morale.” It’s a UCMJ punishable offense.
Hanging out with a direct report doesn’t carry the same ramifications as in the military but when you appear to favor one team member over the others, when you consistently respond to one team member’s input to the exclusion of others, when you allow a team member rewards he or she hasn’t earned, the perception of favoritism can result in a loss of respect.
One other thing, if you’ve deliberately chosen a diverse team, don’t undermine that diversity by allowing your biases to prevent you from hearing what those team members who might not look like you, sound like you or experience the world in the same way, have to say. Read what Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant say about bias in the workplace.
Don’t undermine the benefits of a diverse team by allowing your biases to block their input! Tweet this now!
Punish in Private, Praise in Public
That good order and discipline thing I mentioned earlier also involves knowing what the punishment is and when it has been judiciously applied. It might occasionally mean getting in someone’s face. But it doesn’t usually mean dressing down your subordinate or peer in a public setting. I wish I could say I never encountered any screamers in my military career… I did and let me just say…they were mostly Army guys! But as I’ve written in this space, there is nothing scarier than a leader who loses his cool in public. I still remember the two “leaders” who tried to deliberately embarrass me in public; they hijacked my emotions AND my respect for them.
Leaders who lack the self-control to respond appropriately to input they may perceive as negative, lose respect.
Recognizing the right action—the action that achieves the desired result and considers the needs of your team—requires vigilance on the part of the leader. The wrong action might get you liked in the short term but can compromise your leadership and result in a loss of trust, influence, credibility and possibly your leadership position or your enterprise. People don’t follow leaders they don’t respect!
Something to think about:
Is it more important to you to be liked or respected?
Renita Alexander, Profit Pathway