Leadership Caffeine™: Respectfully Speaking, Let’s Cure Respect Deficit Disorder

Picture of a styrofoam cup of coffee.Newsflash: The Center for Leadership Diseases (CLD) has just announced an addition to their growing list of maladies and afflictions running rampant through the leadership and customer service communities

Respect Deficit Disorder (RDD) has officially been added to a list of maladies that includes Two-Dimensional Leader Disease (2DLD) and Tired Leader Syndrome (TLS).

In this era of runaway deficits, it seems that the need to treat others with respect…especially those who work  for and with us… well..it has run away. 

The extent of the disease is not entirely known, although it has been widely observed in congress as well as in a large number of workplaces and oddly enough, even in settings where treating people with respect might be expected to be a key criterion for success.

The CLD encourages anyone observing someone afflicted with this malady to direct them to the content below.  For extreme cases, a stern rebuke from Mom about “treating others as you would like to be treated,” is recommended. If necessary, Mom should brandish the wooden spoon as a reminder of the implications of failing to improve.

Respectfully Yours, What Part of “Respect” Don’t You Get?

The one absolute certain thing about your day today is that you and only you determine whether you treat everyone you encounter with respect. Or not.

Too many of us will choose the “Or Not,” in spite of the fact that the simple and free but priceless act of showing respect is the most powerful lesson you will ever learn on the road to success. 

For anyone leading others, respect is your most precious currency. Treat people with respect and watch resistance melt, collaboration and creativity flourish and joy or at least enjoyment begin to break out all around you.


“She always pays attention to me…and listens to my ideas. Even when she’s busy, she takes time to pause and focus on me. The way she deals with me makes me want to do my best.”


“If I’m lucky, he turns away from his computer screen when I have a question. Usually, he snarls something unintelligible and then waits for me to go away.”

I’m comfortable betting heavily that respect is not only correlated to high performance, but that there’s a causal relationship. 

For those dealing with others, show respect to those approaching you, and you reduce resistance, gain customers, sell more, put people at ease during difficult times or simply ease the burden for a moment for someone during their journey.

How many times have you approached someone (especially the receptionist at the doctor’s office or the clerk at the Department of Motor Vehicles) to be greeted by a look that says, “Who the f#$% are you and why are you standing in front of me?” While the behavior is inexcusable, the boss is truly to blame in this situation.

For those of you who operate small businesses, teach your people to smile! (see: Smiles, Sales and Leadership)

I don’t get why people fail the respect test so many times every day. The concept is as old as humanity and wars have been fought and lives lost over the lack of this free but precious act of human decency.

Showing Respect isn’t Showing Weakness and Conversely…

And while some may confuse respect with weakness, don’t fall into that trap. In fact, it’s the opposite. Showing respect requires you to sublimate your own desires or ego and focus on the other person. This takes self-confidence and discipline, both critical indicators of strength.

Good negotiators get this…great negotiators live it. Respect wielded liberally is a powerful force.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Leading and living are a both a great deal more enjoyable and a heck of a lot more productive when every action is preceded by the act of showing respect for the person or group in front of you.  If you are leading others, take time, pay attention and engage with people like they matter. If you are leading others who deal with others, have this conversation and then hold people accountable. And if all else fails, Mom will straighten you out.

About Art Petty:

Art Petty is a Leadership & Career Coach helping motivated professionals of all levels achieve their potential. In addition to working with highly motivated professionals, Art frequently works with project teams in pursuit of high performance. Art’s second book, Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development, will be published in September of 2011.

Contact Art via e-mail to discuss a coaching, workshop or speaking engagement.

By | 2016-10-22T17:11:37+00:00 August 1st, 2011|Career, Leadership, Leadership Caffeine|2 Comments

About the Author:

Art Petty is a coach, speaker and workshop presenter focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. When he is not speaking, Art serves senior executives, business owners and high potential professionals as a coach and strategy advisor. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.


  1. Stephen Hobbs August 3, 2011 at 11:20 am - Reply

    Hi Art … and interesting take on drinks at work ))smiles … especially from a living and leading perspective. Hope this works for you. Will return later to see how it’s going for you. As I frame my new website … I’ll share your book launch in September ))smiles

    Cheers, Steve

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