I decided to check out the definition of respect in the Merriam-Webster’s 2008 online dictionary. Here’s just a sample of what I learned: respect originated as a noun in the 14th century derived from the Latin respectus, (act of looking back), from respicere (to look back, regard) and from re- + specere (to look). As I read the definitions, I read many phrases such as:
- looking back
- a relation or reference to a particular thing or situation
- high and special regard
- the quality or state of being esteemed
- to refrain from interfering with
- regard for one’s own standing or position
As I consider these phrases in terms of leadership, I do not think about “what” I do or the tasks at hand. Rather, I think about “how” I am with others, myself, and our world. Respect and its associated phrases make me think of a mirror and a reference point (the kind one uses to draw in art projects). I think about faces of people I have met in the workplace over the years and their reactions to me. I am amazed at how often their reactions and body language actually gave me a lot of feedback about myself. These people served as “mirrors” and “reference” points that told me how effectively I worked to accomplish tasks with and for them.
One major difference exists between the times I succeeded or did not succeed. Success rested in how well I gave “particular attention” to the physical and emotional cues of people, including my own, as much as to the situation.
As infants and toddlers, we all faced three primary tasks before venturing into our social worlds.
- We learned how to interact with our caregivers and established relationships with them.
- We learned how to regulate our emotions and behaviors from these interactions.
- We learned more about self-regulating, and we felt safe due to our caregiver relationships, so we wanted to explore and learn how to do things.
The basis of the respect we have for ourselves as human beings comes from that early time in life from the people we held (and continue to hold) in high or special regard. We can also find how we have ended up with regard for our positions in life. Through my research, I have found convincing evidence that the impact from caring and supportive relationships helps people overcome life challenges and develop respect for themselves and others.
Keep in mind that respect costs nothing, leaves the budget neutral, but gives everything and can lead to sustainable outcomes for workforce and leadership development.