The Vital Importance of Respect in Leadership

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In his opening talk at the 2017 Global Leadership Summit, GLS founder Bill Hybels called upon leaders to accept a higher standard when it comes to respect and civility.

What a timely message this is. One need only listen to the shrill discord in the public arena surrounding racial issues in the United States, and around religious issues elsewhere in the world, to realize that indeed respect has seemingly vanished from so much of leadership interactions.

As I reflected on this challenge, I couldn’t escape one crucial personal take-away. Respect, I realized, is not a technique. It is not a leadership strategy.

Genuine respect is a natural outflow of humility.

Humility produces respect.

The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Phil 2: 3,4) In short, Paul is saying that humility causes us to place the value of other people above ourselves.

Humility produces respect.

So how does a leader develop such humility? In my own experience these are three practices that can steer a leader’s heart towards respect-producing humility:

1. Don’t read your own press clippings

It’s the job of a leader to produce results. But don’t allow those results to warp your sense of identity.

2. Don’t surround yourself with ‘yes people’

The best leaders I know make it a point to place people in their orbit who will intentionally challenge their ideas. This produces better outcomes and keeps the leader’s ego in check.

3. Hang around genuinely humble people

I’ve noticed that the most humble leaders keep company with other humble people. Humility seems to be contagious.

Hybels challenge was summed up on one powerful quote, “We of faith do not get to choose who we will respect.”

That’s a challenge every leader should take seriously.

Let’s commit to developing the kind of humility that will produce the respect and civility our world so desperately needs.

the author

Scott Cochrane

Vice President- International, Willow Creek Association. Love Jesus, Nora, Adam & Robin, Amy, Dave & Willow and John, Fiona & Will. Lifelong learner.

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