I don’t get no respect, I tell ya! The other day I told my wife, “I lost my wallet. I’m very depressed.” She said, “That makes two of you, you and the guy who found it.
– Rodney Dangerfield
Comedian Rodney Dangerfield built a career by lamenting the lack of respect he received from everyone around him. His sad sack comedy routines were littered with jokes about the disrespect heaped upon him from all directions. Whether complaining about his wife, his dog or his parents, Rodney’s insistent catchphrase, “I don’t get no respect,” struck a chord with audiences.
Rodney Dangerfield may have profited by joking about disrespect but most of us know that a lack of respect is no laughing matter. Or do we realize that?
As a child, I was taught to respect my elders, people in authority, my parents and neighbors. I was also taught to love and honor God.
For example, when an elderly man or woman needs a seat, give them yours. When the teacher tells you to do something, do it. At the checkout counter in the grocery store, offer to let the one with only a few items go before you. Dare I suggest that you hold the door open at the post office for the person behind you and then wait in line behind him/her.
In years past, as a parent of two children, I can tell you that when my kids didn’t show me or their mother respect, it was really hard not to want to ground them until they were 30 – at least. My point is that instilling the importance of honoring authority in our kids is hard work.
I bring this to your attention because RESPECT is becoming increasingly invisible in our world. Most recently, I have been increasingly aware of the lack of respect displayed among those in positions of leadership. The same is true of showing honor and esteem, both of which are closely related.
As I have reflected on the ingredients of respectability, I have concluded that there are three pillars of character that are required for leaders. They include clarity, preparation, and integrity. We will examine each quality in more detail.
Let’s begin with clarity. In my earlier professional career, I traveled a great deal. I would fly into a specific city and take a cab to the last leg of my destination.
I can tell you from experience that all taxi drivers are not the same. I’m put at ease by taxi drivers that clearly understand my desired destination and have expert knowledge of the quickest and safest route there.
Good drivers give me peace of mind by informing me of the ride time to my destination, pointing out local landmarks along the way, and familiarizing me with the surroundings. A driver with a very clear sense of direction allows me to relax and enjoy the ride.
Regrettably, I’ve had the misfortune of riding with cab drivers that don’t have a clue where they’re going. Believe me – few experiences are scarier than riding in a taxi in an unfamiliar city with a disoriented cab driver.
Of my bad memories, the following stand out: merging haphazardly across multiple lanes of traffic to make a last minute route adjustment, making dizzying U-turns, placing frantic calls to fellow drivers to ask for directions and taking unscheduled stops to consult tattered maps with a hand-held flashlight.
As a passenger, when the driver is unclear of where to go, you feel insecure and very uncomfortable!
Next is preparation. Imagine going on an extended hike with friends. Your preparation before the trip largely determines whether your experience will be enjoyable or disappointing. If you forget insect repellent, bottled water, food and a poncho to protect yourself from pouring rain, you could be in for a miserable experience. However, if you bring plentiful bug spray, canteens of ice-cold water, rainproof outerwear and coolers stocked with snacks, then you are likely to have fun on the hiking trip.
People that garner respect are pre-planners. They make sure everyone has ample resources at their disposal before the journey begins. While followers may be content to show up, leaders bring the supplies. They consider the path in front of them and take proactive measures to improve the chances of success.
And finally is the matter of integrity. To be respected, a leader must have integrity. With integrity, professed values are put into practice. What is promised matches what is delivered. Agreements are honored. Contracts are kept. When a leader has integrity, perception matches reality. A respected leader’s influence flows from authenticity and transparency. He or she refuses to manipulate or deceive. Shortcuts are bypassed in preference of doing what’s right.
How a leader responds to mistakes serves as a litmus test for integrity. A respected leader takes responsibility for poor decisions, learns from them and tries to make amends. Disrespectable leaders point fingers, make excuses and avoid taking ownership of mistakes.
In closing, I ask you candidly: Are you part of the problem or part of the solution? Are you helping to keep RESPECT alive or slowly adding to its demise?
You have the power of choice. What will you choose?
Until next time…
Loren Simmonds has been a resident of Lynnwood for 35 years. He served on the Lynnwood City Council for 16 years and is currently a member of the Lynnwood Civil Service Commission. Loren works as a consultant, writer, speaker and trainer. He is currently a member of the Lynnwood Parks and Recreation Foundation.