Why leadership is about respect


Leadership 2.0, agile leadership, flat hierarchy, new requirements...
Is it really about new requirements and new behaviors? For sure there are many new elements, however there is one thing that remains the foundation for good leadership: respect. Whether yesterday, today, or tomorrow. Respect for my counterpart.


What Wikipedia says about:
Respect (from Latin respectio 'review, assessment, contemplation', in the sense of 'assessment', via French respect 'respect') denotes a form of appreciation, attention and deference to another living being (respectperson) or institution.

Let's have a look at appreciation and attention.

What Wikipedia says about:

  • Appreciation refers to another person's positive assessment. It is based on an internal general attitude towards others. Appreciation concerns a person as a whole, his being. It is rather independent of deeds or performance, even if such influence the subjective assessment of a person and thus the appreciation. (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wertschätzung)

And what Wikipedia says about:

In terms of appreciation respect is to take a positive attitude and assume that the counterpart has good motives. I expect him to want the best and do the best. There is trust right from the start. I assume the best.

And to give attention. Attention as a human being and as a job filler. Attention in terms of simple greeting and showing real interest. Attention also by spending the needed time to handover essential information, secure on a regularly base exchange and to appreciate the outcome, all necessary ingredients for a successful delivery.



What are my responsibilities as a boss?

Often the outstanding specialists become the boss of other specialists. Great. However, the requirements for a specialist are quite different from the ones for a leader.

  • The specialist is deeply involved in the subject matter and can solve "technical" problems with his profound knowledge.
  • The boss is responsible for the leadership of the team, the strategic orientation, the overarching coordination.

Different requirements, implying that the best specialist is not necessarily the best boss. Maybe even the opposite.

  • Is it provocative when saying that respecting the specialist's competence is even easier when not being specialized in his field?
  • Is it provocative when saying that not respecting the specialist's competence is even disrespecting?
  • What about applying the idea of trust and esteem to assume that the employee will do the right thing?


  • Working with goals and coordinating the goals with the specialist. Discussing and writing down goals together helps to report misunderstandings, misinterpretations.
  • It's not about telling the how, it's about the what shall be achieved rather. Goals need to come from the boss, the how is the specialist's task.

Management circle

  • When working with goals rather than how's, it's even more important to make sure that goals are aligned/purpose is understood, check points are implemented, and adjustments are commonly agreed whenever necessary.
  • Nothing is more frustrating when working for a certain goal that unfortunately has changed meanwhile- however no one has informed. So, it's also about transparency and sharing knowledge. Quite often still knowledge is misunderstood as power. It's not. Sharing is caring. Share the knowledge, be transparent. Consider anyone who might be affected by a change of plans. Act respectful towards one's resources.
  • What about check points? They secure that the both of you (or even more) are looking in the same direction. This is about attention and showing appreciation. Appreciation for what has been done so far and for what is about to come.
  • The same with alignment on adjustments. Plans change, goals change. No worry. Explaining the reason behind, and maybe even asking for specialists' input?

Successful or not

  • Respect is also about strengthening ones back. Especially when a task has not been delivered successfully, what is my share? What could I have done differently? Have I supported enough? Were the goals always aligned? Did we meet enough in between and really checked whether we still had the same view? Have I shared all relevant information?

 Respectful Choices

  • This is about questions like: Do I have the right competence in the team? What are my expectations towards my team? Am I transparent about the expectations? But also, what if the competence is not there? Or goals have changed and requirements either? All relevant questions when leading a team.
  • This can also be treated with respect - or not. Change is one of the biggest challenges for a leader. Am I prepared? Where can I get support? What are the right steps?


Respect denotes a form of appreciation, attention and deference to another living being or institution.


One last thought about respect:

In former times I thought that respect is to treat someone the way I want to be treated. 

Since many years I realized that respect is to treat someone the way he needs to be treated.