Two Sides of Respect

Respect is a two-sided coin.  Generally respect is defined as esteem for a person or deference to a person or thing.  We often hear people say they have respect for someone or they show respect to someone or something.  They acknowledge the other person; their importance or their value.  In short, respect for another person shows up by giving preference or simply hoping the other person wins.

The flip side of respect is, according to “the condition of being esteemed or honored: to be held in respect.”  Often the dark side of respect is how we feel when we don’t believe that anyone properly values or appreciates us.  When we feel we’re not being treated as we would like to be treated, we get offended.  We may withdraw our friendship or we may do worse when we perceive a respect imbalance.  I’d call this the dark side of respect.

Often the only way to gain respect is to give it away.

Respect is a dangerous thing to fake.

When you act like you respect someone in order to get something you manipulate, you diminish your leadership.  No one likes to be manipulated, so once discovered, your relationship will be a mess.  However undiscovered, acting as if you respect someone when you don’t will cause you to feel like a hypocrite.  You’ll know down deep inside that you don’t respect that person, and each time you’re presented with an opportunity to “show respect,” you’ll hit your hypocrite button one more time.  Each time you do, a little piece of you dies.

Hypocrisy kills the person who carries it.

To truly respect someone, you must find the thing you can truly appreciate. For some it’s easier than it might be for others.  But when we all work to find the values in another that we can truly appreciate, we can show genuine respect.  Often we do this even for their position less than who they are.  We (at least we used to) respect a political office while not necessarily respecting the person holding the office.  On a more personal note, in a work or family setting, we must find the thing we appreciate about each person. Concentrate on that value and appreciate that value and genuine respect will flow.

Once you show respect, you’ll find it easier to earn respect.  Your focus on others will enable them to grant you respect.  You’ll help people around you win, simply by appreciating their value.  Over time they will focus more on the behaviors and results you value and less on the ones you don’t.  Your respect for others will serve to “lead” them into improving their performance or their behavior.  Your appreciation of them will encourage them to develop and grow.  Our innate desire to be respected causes this reaction.

Focusing on the right side of the respect coin will produce positive results in your leadership effectiveness and your team’s engagement and development.  What can you do today to appreciate your people and help them appreciate others in a way that makes the team more effective and produces better results?

Connect with Mike

Mike is the founder of the Lead Change Group. Known nationally as a character-based leadership coach and committed leader, Mike’s passion is mobilizing people and communities to apply character-based leadership to make a positive difference.  Mike is also the co-author of The Character-Based Leader: Instigating a Leadership Revolution… One Person at a Time

Graphic by Shawn Murphy

Mike is the founder of the Lead Change Group. Known nationally as a character-based leadership coach and committed leader, Mike’s passion is mobilizing people and communities to apply character-based leadership to make a positive difference.

  • In my experience working with business people around the globe, respect is the universal language. Without it, connection is impossible. Without connection, there is no trust. Without trust, there is no loyalty. With no loyalty, in business, you are simple wasting one another’s time. Great article as always, Mike. Favorite quote, “The only way to gain respect, is to give it away.”

  • Thanks Mike. Couldn’t agree more. Respect is the “R” in CARE. This one will be RT, on facebook and linked in. Love it.


  • Thanks for your interest Mike. Ted and Shawn know.

    CARE = Communicate, Appreciate, Respect, Encourage.

    Look forward to connecting further. Love your writing.


  • We find that issues around perceived lack of respect are common when we work with high performing teams. I agree that you need to find some basis of valuing the other person to give that respect. You have given the right key here.
    However the problem often comes because we value differently and what we define as respect is not what others define it as. So what we seek to give and what the wish to receive are not the same because of our definitions based on our relative valuing.
    If I may I can add to your excellent topic by expanding via a blog I produced some time ago.

  • Great post. Trying to “fake” anything in leadership will always backfire. Respect must be genuine and come from the heart. Instead of trying to pretend you have it for someone you don’t… I think the deeper challenge is to keep looking. There is almost always something fantastic to discover that will inspire respect.

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