“Show proper respect to everyone…” (I Peter 2:17)

Last week at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit Pastor Bill Hybels used this verse as one of his central texts in discussing the attributes of leadership.  Referring to the current societal atmosphere of divisiveness and disrespect which seems to be getting worse, the question for us as leaders is how do we go against our culture and lead with respect for others?  Or more specifically, for us in the marketplace, what does respect look like for a business leader?  We could probably list at least a dozen rules about respect in the workplace, but I would like to focus this morning on 3 key concepts:

1. “Value people for who they are, rather than for what they do.”

We all fall into the unhealthy practice of grounding our self-identity in what we do vocationally.  Ironically, although we all do this, no one wants to have their personal value reduced to what they DO.  Rather, most of us want to be valued for who we ARE.

For example, Fred is a custodian at a local manufacturing company.  He also happens to be a gifted poet whose poems have brought meaning and insight for people.  So, is he a janitor, or a poet?  If we only relate to Fred and value him for how clean he keeps the lunch room and the bathrooms, as useful as that is, we disrespect him as a person.  Similarly, if we only relate to our employees or colleagues in the workplace in relation to their vocational function they may feel disrespected.

2. “Don’t interrupt and don’t dominate in conversation.” 

As leaders, we may sometimes lose patience with trying to follow the other person’s line of thought when talking with a subordinate.  In a moment of impatience, what often happens is, even while listening, we are already formulating our response and may break in and say, “Actually, here is what I need you to do..”  If this dominating behaviour is done often enough, it causes those we seek to lead to shut down and no longer share their thoughts with us.  Leadership is influence.  If you as a leader do not practice active listening and dominate conversations, you will lose influence with those you are seeking to lead.  This reduces productivity and may even lead to employee turnover.

3. “Differ with others, without demonizing them.”

In business, politics, indeed in almost all human endeavours – we will have differences of opinion.  If we do not agree to differ while maintaining respect for the other side, we come across as disrespectful.  To use a contemporary example, Donald Trump the US President has shown a persistent habit of characterizing anyone who disagrees with him as a “loser” or as “crooked” or as promoting “fake news” which is equivalent to calling them a liar.  Regardless of how you view President Trump’s presidency, it is clear from a leadership perspective that this practice is disrespectful and causing him to lose the respect of other leaders and governments.

Christ calls us to respect the person even if we disagree with their position.  If that basic respect is maintained, you may eventually win someone over to your viewpoint.  If you demonize the other person because of their differing position, you break trust and lose any hope of a future fair exchange of ideas.

REFLECT:

  1.  In the next month, how will you value someone in your business for who they are rather than for what they do?  Share how you will do this with your Forum.
  2. Think of someone who holds a very different position from you on some issue.  Practice mindfulness of your reaction to them.  Seek to separate their position from their person.  What positive personal attribute can you appreciate about them?  In your next interaction, seek to praise them for their positive personal attribute that you admire.  Reflect on how that changes your relationship with them.

Corpath – John Wiseman

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