Respect is one of the most valuable elements you can possess as a leader. But it doesn’t come easily or automatically, especially when you are managing a multitude of positions and personalities.

By holding a senior title, those underneath you will respect your position, as they are required to do so but this does not mean that they respect you as a person or that they will have your best interest at heart. If your team does not respect you as a leader, they will show up to work and do what they have to do to keep you as far away as possible. So, how can you change this dynamic? 

Let me be blunt, it is not going to be easy, it is not going to be fast and you are going to have to take a good, hard look in the mirror and do some soul searching and self-analysis. If you are not willing to look at yourself, search for the areas that you need to improve upon and take action on those findings, becoming a leader is not in the realm of possibilities for you. Period! 

Now, with the tough love out of the way, let’s begin to look at some simple steps you can take on your way to becoming a beloved leader that is respected within your organization. The first, and most crucial step, is to practice humility. Leadership is not about you, it is about the collective efforts of the team in which you have had the honor of being placed as the head of. By assigning value to the goals of the organization as a whole and your team over your own personal priorities, your team members will start to see that you care about them and their careers and not just your own self-promotion.  

Step two: Learn. Your. People. I am not just talking about learning their names – that’s easy. Actually learn about them, learn who they are and what makes them tick! Are they married? Do they have children? Where are they from? Hobbies? What about their career goals? This last point is vital.  Learn what your team members want to achieve while working within your organization and ask how you can help them achieve these goals. By understanding what they want to get out of their 6, 12, 18 month goals, and beyond, you can then help develop a plan alongside them. This investment in their future success will fortify their respect for you and loyalty as an employee. 

Step three:  Have their back and act accordingly. Stating you have your team’s back but acting in a different manner will completely tarnish your credibility and everything you are looking to achieve. When the big boss asks you to keep your people late on a Friday night – for the fourth or fifth consecutive week – standing up for your team will do wonders for their morale. I am not saying that you should question the intentions or decisions that your boss is making all the time, there are a time and place for it. That place is when executive decisions start to deteriorate your team’s productivity.  

Being a leader seems simple but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It takes a lot of work, dedication, time, and patience. It is an art that you must constantly practice in order to perfect. At the end of the day, there is one thing that will separate you from the rest of the “leaders” within your organization – genuine respect. Talk is cheap. The best way to become a stellar leader and create change is to change yourself first.

“He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander.”

—Aristotle