We live in an age where leadership is a quality that is expected at every level. From an early age, children are engrained with the notion that they are all expected to be leaders. They are taught the qualities and characteristics of a leader, and are put in situations where they are expected to demonstrate leadership. Then they go to college and are told that leaders are to be esteemed, and that they are the leaders of tomorrow.
It’s quite clear that leadership - and the attributes and character traits that go along with it - is highly regarded. It behooves us, therefore, to dig in and learn about this topic; to consider, to study, to debate, and to discuss, and in so doing, deeply enhance our own understanding of what it means to be a leader.
It is said that the true measure of a man is not how he treats his equals or his superiors, but rather how he treats those who are inferior to him. This inferiority can come in many forms; an inferiority in status, station in life, accomplishment, or even ability. It could be the cashier at the checkout stand, or the bellman who takes your bags. It could be the new college hire on your team, or the person who restocks the snacks in the office pantry. It could even be the customer service agent you had to call because their company messed up your order.
The truth is that the way we treat these people speaks volumes to our character. Treating those who may be beneath us with dignity and respect says a few things, especially to those in our organizations.
It says that we believe everyone has the same intrinsic value. We tell people who may be in our organization that regardless of their current role, we will treat them with respect and will distinguish evaluating their work from evaluating them.
It says that we believe our current role as the manager is a job role and not a value judgment. As a manager, we are not worth more and are not valued more; rather, our role and responsibilities are simply different than theirs.
It says that we will not judge a book by its cover, and will take the time and the care necessary to get to know people. It says that we will demonstrate the thoughtfulness and empathy needed as we evaluate them.
And if these aren’t enough, remember that as leaders we are examples to those we lead!
“Attitude reflects leadership, captain” ~ Remember the Titans
When we treat the least and the last with dignity and respect, we not only set ourselves up for success as leaders, but we influence those that we lead to do the same. And that, truly, is a mark of a great leader!