Great Leaders Don’t Demand Respect, They Earn It

respect signHas a leader ever said “do as I say not as I do” to you? While a number of countries took time on Nov 11 (Remembrance Day in Canada) to honour and remember their current and fallen military heroes who sacrificed themselves for their country I was reminded of one of my first experiences with leaders and leadership.

As a thirteen year old Army Cadet we were taught to pay attention to minor details. Our boots needed to be so shiny you could use them as a mirror. The creases in our pants had to be so sharp you could almost cut your finger if you ran them down the front of the legs.

A higher ranking Cadet came up to me and said that my boots were not shiny enough. I looked down at his boots and noticed his boots were not any shinier than mine. I broke military protocol and pointed out to him that his boots were not very shiny either. His response was, “do as I say not as I do”. This left me confused and dejected and I lost complete respect for this person.

I unfortunately experienced similar instances in my corporate career. The actions of business owners, managers and company Presidents did not reflect the values and standards they communicated. For example, leaders who preach fiscal restraint then take lavish vacations. Leaders who express appreciation for employees with many years of loyal and dedicated service then unceremoniously lay them off are not being consistent with their words and actions.

As leaders we must recognize that those whom we lead have us under a microscope. They are watching to see if our actions are matching our words. Any level of inconsistency between words and actions are magnified and will lead to apathy and distrust in our organization. Once trust is lost it takes a very long time to regain it resulting in a downward trend of diminishing performance.

Here are a few tips to help you maintain your consistency between words and actions:

  1. Clearly define and understand your own core values and live them every day.
  2. Remember that the true character of a person is what they do when no one is watching.
  3. Don’t ask anyone do to anything that you wouldn’t do yourself.

Leaders who truly believe and live the words they say will earn the undying respect and loyalty of their team, run more effective organizations and leave a legacy that will outlast their being.

Tony Malyk

Tony Malyk is a Certified Professional Business Coach and Business Value Accelerator specializing in improving profitability and increasing business value in the manufacturing, distribution, trades and technology sectors.