Why Is Respect Important In Leadership?

Respectful leadership is a crucial aspect of effective leadership. It is about treating people with respect, valuing their opinions, and creating an environment where everyone feels valued and appreciated. However, many leaders fail to show adequate respect to their team members. This disengages employees, damages morale, and limits performance.

This article explores “why is respect important in leadership” and how to build respectful leadership relationships that bring out the best in people.

A leader earns respect. A boss demands respect.

What Is Respect?

When you think about it, most of us want to be respected. We want to be treated in a way that makes us feel valued and heard. Respect is about seeing the dignity and worth in other people, no matter who they are or what their background is.

In simple terms, respect means showing care and consideration for others. It’s about empathy, compassion and trying to understand different perspectives. Respect goes beyond just being polite or courteous to someone. It’s more about truly caring about people as human beings and appreciating their ideas and experiences.

Now let’s talk about respect in leadership. Being in charge of a team or organization comes with a lot of responsibility. As a leader, you set the tone and culture for the entire group. The level of respect you demonstrate will directly impact your team members.

Leading with respect means listening sincerely, being open minded, and valuing each person’s contributions. When team members feel respected by their leader, it unlocks their potential and brings out their best.

Related Article: 16 Clear Signs You Are Respected At Work

Why Is Respect Important In Leadership?

There are many reasons why respect should be the cornerstone of good leadership. Let’s explore some of the key benefits:

Respect builds trust

Do your team members feel psychologically safe to take risks, share ideas openly, and expose vulnerabilities? If not, a lack of respect could be the problem.

When leaders consistently show respect, they build confidence and trust. Your team will believe you’ll treat them with care, empathy and fairness even in tough times.

Respect demonstrates that their opinions and concerns matter to you. Knowing this, your people will feel comfortable collaborating, engaging fully, and admitting mistakes rather than hiding them. Trust is the foundation for the honesty and openness needed for any high-performing team.

Read More: 20 Examples of Trust in the Workplace for a Positive Environment

Respect encourages open communication

We’ve all dealt with leaders who don’t really listen. They pretend to hear you but have already made up their minds. This kills morale and shuts down communication.

Your team needs to know their thoughts and perspectives are valued. Even if you disagree with an idea, show your respect by considering it carefully. Don’t shoot people down or ridicule.

Make it safe for introverts and dissenting voices to share openly. Invite constructive debate rather than just surrounding yourself with “yes” people. You’ll gain insights that positively impact decisions.

Read More: 11 Crucial Board Member Skills You Need to Join an Organization Board

Respect increases morale and engagement

Do you want your people to truly care about their work? Then care about them first. Everyone wants to be treated with dignity.

When team members feel respected and valued, their engagement and loyalty grows. But indifference or dismissiveness from the top crushes spirits. It saps motivation, fuels resentment, and drains productivity. On the flip side, when leaders show appreciation and validation, people give their discretionary effort. They become passionate advocates for the team and its work.

How Can Leaders Demonstrate Respect?

Gaining respect starts with modeling it. Here are some ways for leaders to communicate respect:

Listen attentively to others

Don’t just pretend to listen, actually listen. Give people your full attention. Maintain eye contact, without distractions or multitasking.

Reflect back key points so they know you have understood. People want to feel heard. Valuing their thoughts and opinions, even if you disagree, demonstrates respect and keeps communication open.

Read More: What Is the Leadership SWOT Analysis and How to Use It for Personal Leadership Development

Value diverse perspectives and opinions

The more viewpoints the better. Actively seek out dissenting voices and unconventional thinkers. Not everyone will share your opinions and that’s okay.

Consider unpopular ideas on merit, not on who raised them. Ask for candid feedback. Surrounding yourself with “yes” people breeds groupthink. But diversity of thought challenges assumptions, spurs innovation and leads to better decisions.

Admit mistakes and take responsibility

Respect people enough to be transparent when you’re wrong. Don’t hide mistakes or shift blame. Acknowledge errors, apologize sincerely, and explain how you’ll improve. Your team will respect the honesty. Being fallible makes you human and shows vulnerability. Admitting faults is a sign of great leadership strength, not weakness.

Express appreciation and recognize achievements

Notice people’s efforts and thank them. Be specific about the actions you appreciate. Recognize team wins publicly, not just privately. Celebrate milestones together. People want their work to matter. A few words of appreciation or praise is incredibly motivating and respectful of their time and effort.

A word of encouragement from a teacher to a child can change a life. A word of encouragement from a spouse can save a marriage. A word of encouragement from a leader can inspire a person to reach her potential. – John C. Maxwell

The Benefits Of A Respectful Leadership Style

Leading with respect transforms teams and cultures. Let’s explore some of the positives it brings:

Improved collaboration and teamwork

Respect fosters inclusive decision making instead of dictatorship. People share ideas and information proactively. They help each other because mutual respect builds unity. Less oversight is needed within highly collaborative teams. Respect also enables conflict to be handled constructively, not combatively.

Increased innovation and creativity

People think more openly and take risks when respect is present. Unique perspectives are shared without fear of being shut down. Innovation thrives on leveraging diversity of thought. Respect also boosts individual creativity by supporting unconventional ideas and self-expression. When people feel respected, they bring their whole authentic selves to the team.

Higher employee retention rates

According to the Human Resources Employee Engagement Statistics, 63% of those who do not feel treated with respect intend to leave their present job within two years.

Respect communicates to people that they are valued. Turnover drops substantially when team members feel respected and appreciated. People become loyal, dedicated members who feel invested in the team’s success. Satisfaction increases along with career longevity. A respectful environment also attracts other top talent to your organization.

Cultivating A Culture Of Mutual Respect

The role modeling starts from the top. Here are tips for leaders aiming to build a respectful culture:

Model respectful behavior

Your team notices how you treat others, especially in high stress situations. Don’t demand respect without displaying it yourself. Make respect the unchanging standard, not a fluctuating option. When disrespect occurs, debrief on how to improve. Be accountable and show the team how to learn from slip-ups.

Establish clear guidelines for respectful conduct

Define clear expectations of acceptable communication and conduct. For example, prohibit personal attacks and mandate respectful dispute resolution. Incorporate respect into performance reviews. Develop reporting channels for disrespect so it can be addressed constructively, not ignored.

Reward respect and confront disrespect

Call out good examples of respect you’ve observed. Recognize those who model civility and address harmful behaviors like bullying. Disrespect should have consequences while respect gets praised. If problems persist, disciplinary action may be needed while coaching is provided. Enforce the guidelines consistently at all levels.

Examples Of Leaders Who Leads With Respect In The Workplace

Here are some respect focused leadership examples in the workplace:

  1. Ricardo Semler of Brazil’s Semco allows employees to set their own hours and salaries. He fully trusts and respects their judgment. This results in increased productivity, long-term loyalty and phenomenal growth.
  2. Richard Branson of Virgin respects employees’ personal lives by offering flexible hours and workspaces. He also responds to every employee email, showing each person matters. He is famous for this saying: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients”.
  3. Mayo Clinic CEO Gianrico Farrugia makes rounds meeting patients and staff. He thanks employees personally for their work, demonstrating deep respect. He even closed most of his U.S. outpatient practices and suspend scheduled surgeries for one day, in gratitude for staff.
  4. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella demonstrates respectful leadership through open communication, embracing empathy, advocating inclusion and diversity, admitting fallibility, and maintaining humility despite professional success. He aims to create a “learn-it-all” culture at Microsoft built on growth mindsets versus arrogance.
  5. Howard Schultz (Starbucks former CEO) demonstrates respectful leadership by leading with passion, transparency, and integrity. Schultz is often credited with building a company culture that values employees (whom he refers to as “partners”). He offers generous benefits, solicits feedback, takes responsibility for mistakes, and aims to create an uplifting third space for customers. Schultz builds trust and morale by treating people with dignity.


Now you know the answer for “why is respect important in leadership”. Respect truly is the foundation on which all else is built in a high performing team. It unlock potential, accelerates development, improves collaborative relationships, and retains your top talent.

Leading with respect takes humility, self-awareness, and commitment. But it pays priceless dividends for your team, your customers, and your organization as a whole. This is why respect will always be the most valuable asset of great leaders. Are you ready to start valuing and leading through respect?

FAQs on Respect and Leadership

What are some examples of disrespectful leadership behavior?

Disrespect can show up in many forms including:
– Belittling, insulting or humiliating people
– Dismissing concerns without listening
– Interrupting constantly
– Rolling eyes or sighing when someone speaks
– Taking credit for others’ contributions
Yelling, screaming or losing your temper
– Ignoring emails and requests
– Being impatient or quick to anger
Excluding certain team members

How does being respectful make a leader more effective?

Respect enables leaders to unlock potential. It accelerates development, fosters honest feedback, and builds trust. Respect also boosts teamwork, accountability, innovation, satisfaction, and retention. People are motivated to go above-and-beyond for respectful leaders.

Does showing respect mean avoiding difficult conversations or accountability?

Not at all. Respect involves candidly addressing problems in a thoughtful, empathetic manner. The key is focusing on coaching and developing rather than blaming. Even during discipline, maintain dignity and care for the person while working to improve behavior.

How can I create a culture of respect as a new leader?

Here’s how you can create a culture of respect as a leader:
– Make respect a core value and set expectations
– Train people on respectful communication
– Model respect in all your interactions
– Encourage ideas and feedback from the team
– Develop their self-awareness and emotional intelligence
– Celebrate wins and progress as a team
– Address disrespect immediately and help people improve
– Don’t expect perfection – have patience

The main takeaway is to lead with respect yourself. It will reflect back through your team. Stay consistent and have a zero tolerance policy for bullying and hostility. The more you demonstrate respect, the more it will multiply throughout the culture.

About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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