LEADERSHIP

Dear Boss: Lead, Don’t Disrespect

Typically, disrespectful bosses complain that those who they lead are not creative enough; they feel that their employees don’t take initiative

In Summary
  • Contrary to popular belief, I’m convinced that: respect is not earned. Trust is earned; respect is a basic human right
  • When you constantly disrespect those who you lead, these three scenarios are likely to play out in your space
Leadership lessons learnt in 2017 as CEO
Leadership lessons learnt in 2017 as CEO

Traditionally, leaders maintain large power distance and sometimes believe that those who they lead are subjects or lesser beings. Based on traditional leadership thinking, some bosses believe that they can (and should) disrespect the people who they lead – they think that those who are below their hierarchy should be treated like trash and do not deserve better. These bosses feel entitled and don’t care about what others think or how they feel. 

Contrary to popular belief, I’m convinced that: respect is not earned. Trust is earned; respect is a basic human right. Everyone deserves respect – irrespective of class, income, race or any other form of classification. Everyone at every level should be treated with dignity and respect. For success in leadership, every boss should understand this principle. When you constantly disrespect those who you lead, these three scenarios are likely to play out in your space. 

Disrespect Breeds Fear: As a boss if you create an atmosphere of disrespect, the people who you lead begin to doubt their person, perspective and abilities. And the longer this happens, the more fear grows in your space. People begin to lose confidence in a disrespectful workplace. Disrespect disintegrates people’s self-worth; it tells people that they are not good enough. As fear grows, the work environment gradually becomes toxic – and this is not good.

Fear Kills Creativity: Typically, disrespectful bosses complain that those who they lead are not creative enough; they feel that their employees don’t take initiative. If this is true, it’s no surprise because disrespect breeds fear and creativity diminishes in an environment of fear. It’s difficult to access and enjoy the creativity of someone who you disrespect. Fear cripples and if smart people stay in an atmosphere of fear long enough, they’re likely to start thinking and acting stupid. Creativity doesn’t flourish in an atmosphere of fear. So, as a boss, you can’t treat people with disrespect and expect them to give you their best. 

Crushed Creativity Kills Growth: “Innovate or die” is a common mantra in the corporate world. Companies that don’t know how to evolve and keep with the changing times will eventually go out of business. Guess what? Creativity drives innovation. So, those bosses whose leadership style involves disrespect, build fear in their organisations and hence, systematically shuts down creativity. But what is really happening is that they are crippling their organisation and hindering growth. Disrespect is more costly than we care to imagine. Effective leaders do it differently – they lead respectfully.