How to earn respect as a leader… and common mistakes demanding it.

How do you earn respect as a leader or friend? What does it even mean to command respect? I can at least say, it doesn’t just happen by accident and it is very easy to make the mistake of trying to demand respect. <-totally different.

I’m sure you know, or at least have seen, someone who shows up and everyone kind of starts paying attention. Not the person that is super charismatic, though. I’m talking about the person that has your Aretha Franklin type of r-e-s-p-e-c-t.

It’s no accident. While it may seem some folks have it naturally built into their personality, we all have to be very mindful of what it takes because it is so easy to lose respect.

I have said for a very long time that there is a detrimental difference between demanding respect and commanding respect. Because I noticed that early, I also spent a lot of time examining the behavior and presence of those who seem to command respect.

Here are a few things I’ve noticed will help you in not just earning respect, but presenting yourself in a way that even those that don’t know you, will come to respect you quickly.

Be consistent and honest

We talked briefly on this topic in How To Gain Credibility article. When you can be consistent in your approach and effort and honest about what you know and don’t know, you gain the trust of those around you. If you have ever lost trust in someone, you can easily see how import trust is in earning respect. Consistency and honesty but trust rapidly.

Be relatable and approachable

Some of my favorite leaders are those who with I found commonality and I felt like I could reach. This is far deeper than the whole “my door is always open” line. You have to maintain some humanity and actually get close to those around you. Now, your schedule may not permit you to get physically in the presence of everyone around you, but you have some incredible tools to stay relevant and available through social media where sharing the same space may not be an option. Plus, you would be surprised what the impact of a 2 minute conversation may bring.

Be inclusive

Everyone wants to know they are valued. If you have an opportunity to hear the experiences and opinions of others, take it. It costs you nothing to allow others to be a part of what you are doing.

Even where they can’t lend an opinion, offer a behind-the-scenes view of you. Show who you are when you aren’t in front of everyone or completely in your zone.

Be timely

I mean this in two ways.

The obvious… be physically on time; always. The best way to show someone that their time isn’t that important is to be late when they are expecting you. Another less apparent consideration for other peoples time is taking up too much of it. If you have been graced with the time and attention of an audience (as small as an audience of one), do your thing and get out the way. Don’t tell a long story to make a long story short, don’t talk so long that you have no time to listen, and prioritize the topic at hand. It’s okay to be social, it makes you relatable, but make sure you get to the information you need without taking way too long.

The less obvious… make sure what you have to contribute is in time with what is happening. Folks can’t take a lot of benefit from what you are sharing if they already have all of that information. Nor can they get a whole lot from it if they have no context for what you are sharing. It’s kind of like that saying, “strike while the iron is hot.”

Never try to demand respect

Truly, the worst thing you can do when trying to gain respect is demand respect. No one responds well to being told to like any one or any thing. It is always meet with some degree of hesitation. It is even worse when you are telling someone that they have to respect you. More than likely, you will lose respect and (if they are anything like me) they will likely laugh at you both in your face and while you’re not around. Remember Birdman? I don’t think anyone really put any “respeck” on his name after that.

What is your style?

I come from the approach of a servant leader. My position is always considered by me to be one of responsibility, not authority. That doesn’t deny my authority in any situation, instead, it causes me to view every situation and relationship as one where my job is to find commonality and solution rather than faults or blame. I gauge my success by the success of those around me.

When you think about people who command your respect, what traits or characteristics to you find to be common?

How do you earn respect?

I would love to talk about it.

Let’s be better; together,




I am Rashad. I'm an entrepreneur with over 15 years of cultivating relationships, chasing ideas, and over delivering on promises. I want to share some of the things I've learned along the way with you. Hopefully, it will inspire you to define and achieve your personal definition of success.