Guest Post: 10 Ways to Earn Respect as a Leader in the Workplace

February 2, 2010

I am very pleased to feature a guest post today by Jim Taggart.  I love what Jim has to say, and I would strongly encourage you to leave Jim a comment at the end of this post. Here is Jim’s bio, followed by his article. Enjoy!

Jim Taggart has been a student of leadership for over 15 years, devoting over a decade to applied work in leadership development, organizational learning and team building. As a thought leader, he has initiated and led several change management projects. He’s also an economist, and has conducted research into labour market functioning, business innovation and industrial competitiveness.

In addition to a Masters degree in economics, he holds a Masters degree in leadership and organizational learning. He recently released his first e-book: “Becoming a Holistic Leadership: Strategies for Successful Leadership Using a Principle-Based Approach.” Jim’s passion for leadership extends to openly sharing with others. He invites you to visit his leadership website and his blog

Leadership is hard work–really hard work. Just when you think you’re getting it, finally figuring it out, you encounter a new situation at work or in your community. And from this you learn, adapt and move forward. The “situation” could be an underperforming employee, a micro-managing boss who questions your decisions, a fellow municipal councilor with whom you frequently disagree, an uncooperative community stakeholder, or a very demanding client.

In facing these challenges, one key element is often ignored by those in leadership positions: the support and loyalty of those you lead. Remember, management is an appointment of position; leadership is earned, regardless of where you work and the position you hold.

Many years ago as a new manager I fell on my face more times than I could count. Maybe it’s partly due to my Scottish heritage, but I stuck it out, learning from my mistakes, adapting and always moving forward. Along the way things started to fit together. And now that I’m completing a 28 year career in the public service and seeking to start a new one, I can look back and shake my head at some of my dumb mistakes. But I also take pride at my accomplishments, which would not have been possible without the terrific people with whom I worked, and in some cases, led. Leadership, I fervently believe, is a shared phenomenon.

I’ve learned many lessons after 30 plus years in the workforce. However, what I would like to share with you are ten ways to gain respect from your co-workers and those you lead. Sure it’s not the definitive list, but drawn from my personal experiences.

I believe that by adhering to these lessons you will set yourself on the right path to excellence in leadership, and also achieve great results with your committed followers. With that said, please keep in mind that this is a never-ending process of self-enlightenment and personal growth. Keep stretching your learning.

Good luck in your leadership journey!

1. Get to know your co-workers and their families. This doesn’t mean snooping or putting on a false interest, but instead showing genuine interest in those you lead.

2. It’s okay to change your mind. If you change direction, make sure that you explain clearly to your team why you did so. It’s also advisable to involve your team in setting direction, as well as when it needs to be altered.

3. Communicate clearly and regularly. Ensure that your team is up to date on what is going on in the organization. The best way to do this is face-to-face. Make judicious use of email.

4. Encourage a learning culture within your team. Show leadership by starting with yourself. Lifelong learning is not a 9 to 5 proposition; it’s about how you absorb new experiences at work and through community service, training courses, assignments, reading, travel, etc. It’s a reciprocal process: employers provide opportunities to learn and grow, but employees also need to engage in activities outside of work.

5. Maintain a careful balance between work and socializing. As much as it’s good to do some outside socializing with your team, take particular care as a manager to never be seen as creating favorites, which can occur through social activities.

6. Give regular feedback on performance. Be open and honest. Don’t whitewash performance reviews; this doesn’t help anyone and deludes people (especially newer recruits) into believing that they’re doing a good job. But acknowledge and recognize superior performance. And be sure to link performance reviews to learning activities. Performance and learning go hand-in-hand.

7. Make generous use of self-deprecating humor. NEVER make fun of others at their expense. This shows your own insecurity. And don’t tolerate others making fun of those who may be more vulnerable. Lead by example.

8. Share the leadership. Avoid micromanaging your staff. As they gain work experience and grow, keep the tension on by giving more responsibility and leadership opportunities. As manager, park your ego.

9. Admit when you screw up. Make a point of showing how you’ve learned from the mistake. This is a powerful way to demonstrate your leadership to your team and to underscore that you’re not above them–you’re a human being.

10. Stand behind your staff during times of difficulty. When your staff make mistakes or get caught up in organizational politics and are in trouble, don’t abandon them in an attempt to cover your own ass. If you can’t stand behind one of your team members, then you don’t belong in management and you’re certainly not a leader.

Thanks, Jim!

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Sites That Link to this Post

  1. SmartBrief on Leadership | January 24, 2011
  1. davidburkus says:

    Love #4. I’ve been really getting into Senge’s work and am convinced of the need for a culture of learning everywhere.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Concur, David. Senge’s work is very important. I was trying to talk systems to someone at another blog today and what I was saying just did not fit into his box. I am convinced that leaders that appreciate systems have a huge advantage over those that don’t. Thanks for sharing! Bret

  2. Bret, thank you very much for sharing Jim’s article with us! I related to his words a whole lot. I have made so many mistakes at work as a leader that I know it’s maybe due to my Mexican heritage or just by simply trying to fit into the organizational system as well. The best of all is that I learned from my mistakes, took away my experiences, and moved forward. One thing that our employees love is when we get our hands in the job when the fire is on, and so this has worked pretty good for me as a leader. Thanks again Jim and Bret.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Javier! We ALL make mistakes. Leaders admit them and learn from them. We all have room to grow if we have a growth mindset. Thanks! Bret

  3. Susan Greene says:

    As I read Jim’s 10 points for successful leadership, I couldn’t help but think of the many bosses I’ve had that could have benefitted from reading that list. Any leader who takes those principles to heart will be effective and will make the work environment a pleasant place for his/her employees. Great post!

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Susan! I agree that any leader could benefit from Jim’s suggestions. As you know, there is a big difference between knowing the list and mastering the behaviors behind the principles. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Bret

    km Poon Reply:

    The 10 points for successful leadership are easy and simple to understand but difficult to put into practise. Taking these principles to heart would require consistent demonstratable behaviour couple with a true sense of humility and sincerity. Followers are quick to detect any insincerity in the leader’s action and therefore get disillusion quickly.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Very difficult to practice. Over time, followers will always know what you are really all about. Thanks for sharing! Bret

  4. Kevin Ertell says:

    Great post! There is some excellent advice here. I’ve long kept my own list of “Rules to Live By” and I’m going to add some of these to the list. (And some of them are already on the list.) I’ll share the first item on my list here, as it is so timeless if comes from the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu. I find it to be maybe the most important advice for any leader.

    Here it is:
    True self-interest teaches selflessness. Heaven and earth endure because they are not simply selfish but exist on behalf of all creation. The wise leader, knowing this, keeps egocentricity in check and by doing so becomes even more effective. Enlightened leadership is service, not selfishness. The leader grows more and lasts longer by placing the well-being of all above the well-being of self alone. Paradox: By being selfless, the leader enhances self. – Lao-tzu

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Kevin! Concur completely that leadership is about service and not self interest. Thanks for sharing! Bret

  5. Mike says:

    Great article, the problem in today’s world is that many managers (leaders) get promoted over an area that they have no experience in. When this happens, the promoted gets a large ego and is only out to look good for themselves and the worker bees get left beind. If only more leaders truely followed even some of the points more employees would be happy and support the leader more.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Mike! Guess the reason why the incompetent get promoted is because they are being promoted by the incompetent. We should do better. Thanks for sharing! Bret

  6. Roland Regnier says:

    Leadership has always been difficult to define and even more difficult to predict. I remember a former prime minister of Israel (Yitzak Rabin)saying that leadership often means taking people in a direction they don’t necessarily want to go. I think Jim’s post helps define the attributes that develop that kind of loyalty. Thanks, Jim

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Interesting quote from Rabin, Roland. We can all think of plenty of examples of people taking us places we did not want to go, and it did not turn out to be leadership. Taking people places they don’t realize they need to go in order to help them might be better. Thanks for sharing! Bret

  7. In reading this list, there was one common thread I saw connecting them all and that is remembering that this is about relationships, of treating those around us with the kind of respect, integrity, and sincerity that we’d expect them to offer to us.

    After reading Jim’s list, it’s clear that he views it as being his responsibility to care and nurture those who he serves as leader. I can’t think of a better way to foster trust and respect among your team members than taking the helm with such an outlook.

    Thanks Bret for inviting Jim to share his experiences in leadership for us to benefit from.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Great observation, Tanveer. I prefer to think of leadership as enabling others to care for each other. I am very cautious about setting up dependent relationships, which is what the nurturing function brings to mind for me. Thanks for sharing! Bret

    Tanveer Naseer Reply:

    I agree that creating dependent relationships is not what anyone should strive for. What I’m referring to is creating an environment where employees know they will be supported and aided in their professional growth and abilities, what I see as being a combination of points #4 and #10 that Jim made above.

    After the week I had, I can tell you the last thing I’d support is creating a culture where we feed or perpetuate the insecurities of those around us. That does a disservice to all of us.

    Thanks Bret for the discussion.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Right on. Tanveer. You know, you would always be welcome to guest blog at my site as well. You and I are on the same page and I like how you write. Your call! bret

  8. Murray Kroeker says:

    Great list. I’ve found that a great indicator that you’re getting it right is when you inevitably screw-up, your team stands behind you. It helps to remember that any one of your team may end up your boss so the Golden Rule is always a good approach. I’ve had this happen a couple times with good outcomes.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Murray! That is an excellent observation. If your people stand behind you when you screw up, it means they trust and value you even in your weakness. You have to be willing to do the same for them in order to earn that type of behavior from your followers. Thanks for sharing! Bret

  9. Enjoyed your article! Direct, bottom-line info…much common sense that is slowly evaporating these days with upper managers. I couldn’t agree with you more on the “hard work” ethic. I see people not wanting to apply themselves anymore. Not sure if it that could be due to insecurity/ low self-esteem or just boredom. Practicing leadership skills is a life-long commitment like regular physical exercise (which I’m lacking and need!). I’m going to print this article and forward it my boss and hopefully he’ll pass it on to his boss, the CEO!

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Denice! We do see folks all the time that we use the label “lazy” to describe. Keep in mind you are observing behavior, which is seldom random. There is a reason why people behave the way they do. Find the reason and you’ve found your leverage to begin changing behavior. Thanks! Bret

  10. Bret- so glad you agreed to the guest post by Jim. It is always nice to have reminders of what we can do personally to improve our leadership relationship with our team. #8 is one I personally love. Leaders often take the weight of the world on their shoulders and if they just remember that by allowing others to help lead, they will have a more successful team.

    This list is one that not only can help seasoned leaders, but can certainly be a guide for newly promoted managers. I am thinking of three people I will share this post with today. Two are very seasoned and one is newly promoted. Thanks to you and Jim for the resource.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Trish! I am glad I trusted Jim to provide content at my site, because he hit a home run. It was my motivation to begin reaching out to others (e.g. you!) to post here as well. I love having a different voice and different perspective. Thanks!! Bret

  11. Kristin says:


    I wanted to congratulate you on having this post selected to be part of February’s Carnival of Trust, hosted this month by Bret L. Simmons.

    The Carnival is a monthly compilation of the top blogposts dealing with the subject of trust in business, politics or society. Not only was your post insightful, but it also provided great detailed steps to take on how to be a better leader in the workplace. Thank you so much for your contribution!

    To see the Carnival in its entirety, please go to:

    Again, congratulations!