Posts Tagged ‘respect’

Dr. Ned M. RossThe first – and one of less than a handful of people whose lives have intersected with mine in which I’ve seen an unwavering commitment to quintessential leadership – quintessential leader in my life was my dad, Dr. Ned Moses Ross. He modeled quintessential leadership  in everything he was, he did, and he said. (more…)

Dr. Ned M. RossThe first – and one of less than a handful of people whose lives have intersected with mine in which I’ve seen an unwavering commitment to quintessential leadership – quintessential leader in my life was my dad. He modeled quintessential leadership  in everything he was, he did, and he said.

When I was younger, I didn’t appreciate it as much. Now that I’m older, I appreciate it – and my dad – more and more with each passing day.

My dad’s been gone almost 17 years, but his example and the lessons he taught me about what quintessential leadership is and what it looks like in practice have taken root over the years, with those roots getting more deeply entrenched and stronger with time and practice, and have now begun to blossom and bear fruit in my own life.

I wish my dad were here to see that, although it was hard to tell then, I watched, I listened, I absorbed, and I took everything to heart. His experience, his counsel, and his wisdom have permeated my mind, my conscience, and my life as I’ve tried them, tested them, proved them, and found them to be true.

The older me would tell my dad that he was right (the younger me had a hard time admitting that anyone else was ever right) and would never stop expressing my gratitude and my love. That, for my dad, will have to wait for another day, one that I am looking forward to very much.

In the meantime, though, I have the opportunity to pass the lessons on in developing other quintessential leaders. I don’t claim to have mastered them nor to execute them perfectly. But that is a front-of-my-mind-always goal and nothing I think, say, or do isn’t within the context of that goal. That, my friends, is the first step to becoming a quintessential leader.

One of the ongoing lessons my dad taught me was to show respect to everybody. In my words. In my actions. In every area of my life. I can still hear him saying “Be nice to everyone you meet on the way up, because you’ll meet the same people on your way back down.”

Respect can be a complicated thing for us as people and us as quintessential leaders. It shouldn’t be, as I hope to show, since respect is an outward manifestation of our understanding of the brotherhood of humanity and of the integrity of our character, but it can be until we understand the essence of what respect is.

Respect is not tied to our likes or dislikes, our feelings and emotions, nor to what we agree or disagree about.

Instead, it is an acknowledgement that each of us has the exact same value in terms of our humanness – at our most basic structure, each of us is just a little dirt and a little water mixed together, and when death, the great equalizer, comes that is what we all return to, minus the water – and in terms of our purpose and our potential.

Most of the people in leadership positions today lack respect for anyone else. They may show favoritism to their lackeys as long as they support and help them and push their agendas – which are power, greed, and control – but favoritism is fickle and disappears when lackeys are inconvenient or no longer useful.

Respect is not fickle, nor is it tied to what someone else can do for us. That is simply beyond the grasp of most people in leadership positions today. 

respect quintessential leaderDisrespect is in vogue. It is wrapped up in the forms of tearing others down, name-calling, and put downs. It is characterized by people exposing the “weaknesses” of others, ripping those weaknesses – and those people – to shreds, and then the disrespecters exalting themselves to show how superior and better they are than the lowlifes they just called out.

As shameful and as disgusting as this conduct is, those who do it have no shame and no remorse. In fact, with social media, they’ve found a bigger and more public venue in which to flagrantly disrespect other people. As a result, disrespect has become the norm, while respect is becoming harder and harder to find.

A recent example of this pervasive disrespect – and this is a pattern of behavior with this individual – from someone in a leadership position, but who is not a quintessential leader, brought this back to the forefront of my thinking.

Here are a few excerpts from an email this person in a leadership position wrote to somebody he disagrees with:

“…that you remain a congenital liar incapable of telling the truth.”

“You seem to fail to grasp that you were used as a useful idiot…”

“…you were too stupid to realize that you were being used.”

“I have no time for lying fools whose mission in life is to slander and spread division…”

“Take your vomit somewhere else and don’t waste my time.”

I disagree, for different reasons, with almost all that the recipient of this email says as well. However, I would never communicate with this person – or anyone else on the planet – in a disrespectful manner. The person in a leadership position, though, had absolutely no qualms about it. 

As quintessential leaders, each of is responsible for showing respect to everyone and to modeling that to the quintessential leaders we are developing. Since that’s our responsibility, what does it look like in practice?

Not everybody is going to like everybody else. That’s a fact of life.

My dad, I think, came the closest of anybody I know to liking almost every person he ever met. I can think of two people I know for a fact that he didn’t like, and there may be two others, but he never said one way or the other.

I, on the other hand, have a longer list of people that I don’t care for and would rather not have to be within 300 miles of on any given day (and, frankly, the same is probably true for them with me). It’s not that they are awful people or bad people, but our personalities and temperaments are so different that we just don’t sync up on any kind of tangible level.

Given the choice to spend any kind of extended time with them or face a firing squad, I’d most likely choose the firing squad. Both are excruciating, but one is fast and one-and-done. Social pain is difficult for me, so quick elimination – my own – is generally my preference.

However, whether we are more like my dad and there’s almost nobody we don’t like or we’re more like me and have a pricklier personality and temperament, we still are responsible for being respectful to everybody.

We all have emotions and feelings and sometimes we get hurt, we get angry, and we get sad at what other people do to us and say to us. Disrespecting them – revenge and getting even – is our default response tendency as humans.

But quintessential leaders never forget their responsibility to be respectful and to be reminded that we have also hurt, angered, and saddened other people in our travels through life, and we’ve been shown respect, along with mercy and restraint, at times along the way when we didn’t deserve it. We pay that forward. It’s that simple.

As human beings, it’s often easier to find things we disagree on than things we agree on. That, too, is part of life. Sometimes those disagreements are deep and intense. Sometimes they are so fundamental, moral-wise, character-wise, and principle-wise, that they force a relationship between or among people to break – at least for the rest of this temporary existence of physical life.

However, no matter how strong the disagreement, even to the point of breaking relationships for the remainder of our physical lives, we may have with other people, we are still responsible for showing them respect.

I suspect that when this life is done and the next iteration occurs that we’ll all find that all the things we thought we knew were in fact next to nothing (and that little splinter where there was a minute bit of understanding and insight was more wrong than right) and all that we argued over, disagreed over, and fought over was basically a waste of time because none of us got it right.

If that’s the case, then our responsibility for being respectful to everybody else – even if they disrespect us – should weigh even heavier in who and what we as quintessential leaders are.

So how do quintessential leaders show respect? What does it look like?

  • Never personally attack anyone else. You can disagree and be respectful. You can dislike and be respectful. You can experience negative emotions and feelings and be respectful. You can break a relationship, because it’s the healthiest thing to do, and be respectful.
  • Never tear anyone else down. You are not anyone’s judge and jury. You have never value purpose potential equals respectwalked in their shoes, so whatever you think you know about them is not even close to their whole story. Show mercy.
  • Never badmouth anyone to anyone else. This an emotional response to anger, frustration, and impatience with other people. It says a whole lot more about you as a person than it does about the person you’re badmouthing.
  • Silence can be a form of respect, especially when it comes to anyone that we are hard-pressed to find or see anything positive about. Just because we don’t see it or haven’t found it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Silence ensures that we recognize that everyone has value, even if we don’t know personally what it is. It is often the better part of wisdom.

What would you add to this list of what respect looks like?

More importantly, how are we doing?

I am a close observer of people who are in leadership positions. I look for quintessential leadership traits in them, as part of who they are as people. I don’t always agree with their positions on things nor do I wholeheartedly support and approve of everything they are associated with.

I strip all that stuff away however when I’m looking at people to determine whether they have quintessential leadership traits or not. Because quintessential leadership traits are what should be important to all of us who are in leadership positions.

So when I write about someone here, I’m pointing out where they do – or don’t – possess quintessential leadership traits. Period. Because that’s what this blog is about.

Hillary Rodham Clinton has proven over time that she has many quintessential Secretary of State Hillary Clintonleadership traits and that she continues to hone those and grow in maturity in them. We can learn a lot from briefly reviewing them.

One quintessential leadership trait that Hillary Clinton has is resiliency. When she first emerged on the national scene during President Bill Clinton’s first presidential run, she made a lot of comments that made her unpopular with older Americans, it seemed. When she emerged as a working First Lady, Hillary Clinton seemed to lose even more popularity. At that time, it seemed that a lot of the American public despised her.

She resoundingly failed to change national public health care, which was the cause she took on in President Clinton’s first term in office, and that failure brought more condemnation and dismissal from a large segment of the population and elected officials. 

During President Clinton’s second term in office, Hillary Clinton endured personal humiliation and condemnation because of President Clinton’s infidelity.

However, because of the quintessential leadership trait of resiliency, Hillary Clinton never quit, and shortly after the second Clinton presidential term, successfully ran for a senate seat to represent New York in Congress.

In 2008, Senator Hillary Clinton ran an unsuccessful primary campaign against Senator Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination. It went badly for a lot of reasons and Senator Barack Obama won the nomination.

Once again, Senator Clinton did not quit, and by this time had, through her work in the Senate, shown her knowledge, skill, and ability to be the obvious choice to lead the State Department and easily won confirmation as Secretary of State during President Obama’s first term in office.

It has been in this role as Secretary of State that the other quintessential leadership traits of Secretary Clinton have really come to light.

One of those quintessential leadership traits that Secretary Clinton has shown is a thorough knowledge of her job. While all quintessential leaders will sometimes let things slip through the cracks, even with thorough knowledge, given the opportunity to explain the circumstances and complexity of their work, it becomes clear that, as much as humanly possible, they are on top of everything.

Such is the case with  the Benghazi attack in Libya on September 11, 2012 that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead. Secretary Clinton was aware of the danger – generally, not specifically to Ambassador Chris Stevens’ situation in Libya – and was continually and exhaustively dealing with several different countries at the same time in trying to keep everyone out of harm’s way. A cable from Ambassador Stevens requesting more security did not get to Secretary Clinton personally and American lives were lost.

Secretary Clinton’s immediate responses within the State Department and publicly show two other quintessential leadership traits she has.

First, Secretary Clinton took responsibility for the problems that led to the death of four Americans in Libya. She acknowledged, among other things, the procedural problem in the State Department that made this cable from Ambassador Stevens not get bumped up to her attention.

Second, Secretary Clinton took action to right the wrongs that existed by completely accepting and working immediately on making all 24 recommendations for change within the State Department made by an independent report on the Benghazi attack released in December 2012.

Another less-touted and harder-to-accomplish quintessential leadership trait that Secretary Clinton – unlike the majority of her government colleagues – showed was humility. Instead of denying, rejecting, blaming, and refusing to change, Secretary Clinton listened to and took the recommendations of others, even though it meant admitting her own failure. It takes a big person to do that and that is a huge quintessential leadership trait.

After reading through excerpts of the January, 23, 2013 U.S. congressional hearings where Secretary Clinton gave testimony about the Benghazi attacks, it is clear that Secretary Clinton has developed and matured the quintessential leadership traits she has. She was pretty viciously attacked and disrespected by some of those on the congressional side of the hearings, but she didn’t attack back.

Another quintessential leadership trait that came out in the excerpts I read was Secretary Clinton’s ability to stay focused on the big picture – vision. And, perhaps, that is the underlying quintessential leadership trait that has sustained Secretary Clinton during many years on a crazy roller-coaster ride in a very public venue. Secretary Clinton didn’t let all the derailment attempts take over – the “would have, should have, could have” statements that focused on a past she had no control over and couldn’t change. Instead Secretary Clinton focused on the present and the future and how to change and improve things.

And the interesting thing about the congressional attacks of and outright disrespect toward Secretary Clinton and her response was it seems like the only adult – and the only quintessential leader – in the whole bunch that showed up that day was Secretary Clinton.

As not-so-public human beings, it’s very easy to jump in and become part of the peanut gallery and Monday morning quarterbacks. But as quintessential leaders, it’s a good exercise sometimes to put ourselves in the shoes of people like Secretary Clinton and see how many of our quintessential leadership traits would be as obvious and apparent in the same situation and circumstances.

When’s the last time you yelled at an employee in front of someone else? When’s the last time you attacked someone who was pointing out that something you are responsible for needed to change? When’s the last time somebody really made a nasty comment to you and you made a nastier one back to them? When’s the last time you did absolutely everything right with no mistakes?

Being quintessential leaders is a 24/7 job. In fact, it’s not job. It’s who we are and becoming better at being. Everything matters. Let’s never forget that!

There is a proverb that says insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. That quote is commonly attributed to Albert Einstein, but there is no definitive proof he actually said it. However, being pretty familiar with Albert Einstein as a person, philosopher, mathematician, and scientist, it seems very consistent with the way he thought and lived his life and did his work.

Organizational dysfunction starts with this definition of insanity. The reality is that most organizations that exist, wherever or in whatever sector of the world, have some dysfunction in them. Humans, by nature, are dysfunctional, and since humans make up organizations, it follows that dysfunction, to some degree, will exist.

With quintessential leadership at the top, though, most of the dysfunction can be changed or eliminated so that the organization itself is not dysfunctional.

However, when there is no quintessential leadership at the top levels of an organization, the organization becomes dysfunctional. The interesting thing about dysfunction, which is abnormal or impaired function, is that once it becomes the norm, it only gets worse until the whole system – in this case, organizations – fails and eventually dies.

Ironically, as organizations get more dysfunctional, the more effort people in top leadership positions put into attempting to save the organizations from death by doing the same wrong, non-working, and sometimes just plain dumb things that made the organizations so dysfunctional to begin with. When I see this, it reminds me of someone hyperventilating and when the panic of not being able to breathe sets in, the person hyperventilates even more, making it even more impossible to breathe.

It’s counterintuitive, isn’t it? It doesn’t make sense, does it? And, yet, in every dysfunctional organization, when the big picture is analyzed to see how the organization got to where it is and what the organization’s response is, it’s the same reaction as a person who’s hyperventilating and panics.

There are many obvious signs of organizational dysfunction and a lack of quintessential leadership at the top, just as there are signs of deepening dysfunction within an organization, but I’ll cover just a few of these here today.

A tell-tale sign of organizational dysfunction is elitism and an upper class (who’s important) and everyone else (who’s not). If you see “us” and “them” or “we’re special and you’re not” in organizational thinking, you’re dealing with organizational dysfunction.

Elitism and upper classes are created by a group of people, starting with the people in top leadership positions, who confer on themselves (and make sure everyone else knows), with no basis for doing so, an elevated and special status above everyone else in the organization. This group pitches this status out like a bone to a dog to the rest of the organization as something to aspire to and it creates minions and sychophants who, driven by a desire to be part of the upper class and have its self-conferred power and nothing else, will do anything, legal or illegal, moral or immoral, right or wrong, good or bad to get there.

These people naturally float to the sub-leadership positions (because all dysfunctional organizations have an elaborate multi-class structure) because they will also agree with everything the elitists say, do, and promote. This is a key reason why organizations get more dysfunctional because there is no one in a leadership position who is a quintessential leader and will say, “This isn’t working and we need to figure out why and how to correct it,” or “That’s wrong; here are the right ways that could be done,” or even “That’s a dumb idea. It’s failed over and over, so it’s time to start over and figure out how to implement a smart, workable idea.”

The irony is that the more dysfunctional an organization becomes, the less disagreement of any kind is tolerated, which means there’s simply no place for quintessential leadership in that organization in a way that will bring the organization out of its dysfunctional state (there will always be a few quintessential leaders even in the worst of dysfunctional organizations, but they will be mostly invisible except to the people who work directly with them).

When an organization reaches extreme dysfunction, then absolute agreement with everything about the organization becomes the mandate that is explicitly communicated to every individual in the organization with some sort of “either you’re with us or you’re against us” or “if you don’t agree, you might as well leave” statement attached and the threat of elimination from the organization if disagreement is found (whether expressed or suspected as a result of intense coercion, which is often employed at this point, to root out dissension).

Another sign of organizational dysfunction is that the people in top leadership positions make sure they’re taken care of, no matter what, to the exclusion of the rest of the organization. An example that illustrates this, which I read earlier this morning on Forbes’ website, is that of Hostess executives getting bonuses for the liquidation of the company while 18,000 people are losing their jobs.

The dysfunction of an organization begins when that organization structures itself by corporate charters and organizational documents so that the elite are protected and taken care of, while there is no similar protection or care given to the rest of the individuals in the organization (who fall into an “at-will” class – so, yes, there is a bottom class!). Additionally, and this is duplicitous and egregiously wrong on every level, many organizations use these founding documents to ensure that people who’ve been identified as the elite of the elite are the only ones eligible to assume the top positions in the organization. Often, these same organizations will offer a public posture of opening the floor up to democracy in filling these positions, which is dishonest, while the elite have made sure that only the people they want to fill those positions actually meet all the criteria.

And this sign leads to the next sign of organizational dysfunction, which is a lack of trust, a lack of respect, and a lack of loyalty to the organization by the individuals in that organization who are not in the elite class.

From an objective and big-picture standpoint, this is the inevitable result of watching, as a part of, an organization form dysfunctionally, operate dysfunctionally, and be seemingly clueless that its dysfunctional. 

And the response from the elite is just as baffling. They become more dysfunctional and the organization becomes more dysfunctional.

Instead of the elite looking around them and at themselves and realizing they’ve created and are perpetuating and worsening the organizational dysfunction, they make all the non-elite individuals in the organization the problem.

This is communicated in statements like “we don’t get the respect we deserve” and “nobody cares about loyalty anymore”. The reality is that when people in top leadership positions create and perpetuate dysfunctional organizations, it involves trust-breaking tactics (dishonesty, manipulation, and deceit, to name a few) and the result is a lack of loyalty to the organization (really, who in his or her right mind is going to pledge loyalty to an organization that, first, is not loyal to him or her, and second, has proven a lack of integrity by its actions?).

Once those statements are communicated, then the next step by the elite is to try to dictate and demand respect and loyalty by imposing very constrictive restrictions on the individuals in the organization. This creates a very hostile environment and destroys morale and motivation. 

At this point, the dysfunctional organization is already in the actively dying process. Some of the non-elite will start looking for an environment where quintessential leadership exists and they can trust, respect, and have a measure of loyalty (loyalty to humanly-devised organizations should not be absolute because humans – myself included – make mistakes, do things wrong, mess up, but the response to those screw-ups is what matters and what builds or destroys trust, respect, and loyalty) and leave as soon as they are able.

Others will just quit with no other prospects in sight and either drop out of the organizational pool altogether or become entrepreneurs and start their own organizations. And others – this will be the majority – will just quit and stay, ensuring the imminent death of the dysfunctional organization.

The saddest part of this is that dysfunctional organizations don’t have to exist. They shouldn’t exist. But until quintessential leadership is being lived, practiced, and a part of every individual within that organization – quintessential leaders mentor, coach, and provide the opportunity for everyone they interact with, professionally and personally, because that’s who they are, to learn how to be quintessential leaders – we will continue to have and see the increase of organizational dysfunction.