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10 Small Ways to Gain Respect as a Leader

Respect is not something handed to you when you take on a new leadership role. It is an essential leadership quality that you must build over time. Unfortunately, there is no step-by-step method for gaining respect in a leadership role. Several major areas require your attention, but many leaders overlook small gestures that get big reactions from staff members.

You hear the phrase "Don't sweat the small stuff" in stress-control seminars. But when it comes to respect, you absolutely must sweat the small stuff. Here are 10 small things you can do daily to gain the respect of your staff.

1. Maintain a Positive Attitude

People rarely respect negative leaders. Instead, they typically ridicule them behind their backs. Negativity sends the message that you're bitter or mean; it develops fear, not respect.

2. Be Available to Employees

Don't just have an open-door policy; make time to talk with employees and ask their opinions. Employees want to think they have the boss's ear and can come to you when they have issues.

3. Offer to Help a Staff Member

No matter how busy you are, when you walk through your work area and notice an employee who needs assistance, offer some. Step in and get your hands dirty. It won't go unnoticed.

4. Tell Staff What to Do, Not How to Do It

Effective delegation is an important part of becoming a good leader. Understand that employees are looking to develop their skills, so when you delegate, give them an important task to accomplish. Then stand back and let them figure out how to do it. When you tell employees how to do the task, they feel mistrusted and perhaps worthless. It is difficult to trust a leader who can't let go.

5. Value Differences

Don't hire people just like you. Bring in a qualified staff and show you value everyone's differences by asking for input and encouraging everyone to work together as a team.

6. Listen Actively

When employees talk with you, show interest and enthusiasm for their thoughts. Lean forward, share acknowledgment and paraphrase back to them what you heard them say. When you actively listen, you are not thinking about what you will say next. Be with them in the moment.

7. Laugh and Have Some Fun Occasionally

Don't take everything so seriously that you can't laugh on occasion. When pressure is high and the things need to get done, a little levity can make the work much more enjoyable. When you laugh, it also shows you are human, and that goes a long way with employees.

8. Share Compliments

Compliment your staff on a job well done. Make sure the compliment is sincere and personal. It is always best to share a compliment when the act is fresh. After or even during a good presentation, giving an OK or thumbs-up sign will make your employee's day.

9. Know What You Want

It is difficult to respect someone who is not sure what he wants. If you manage a production line, is your goal to meet or beat the schedule or to get the product out under cost? The goal is not nearly as important as knowing what it is.

10. Be Congruent at All Times

Are what you say and what you do the same? It's amazing in corporate America how many leaders send mixed messages. For instance, consider the manager who says he wants ideas from his staff and then proceeds to put down every idea brought to him.

Without respect, it could be difficult for you to accomplish your job. Marilyn Johnson, owner of a small computer company in Indianapolis, shares her quest for respect: "I was so enthusiastic when I started my company that I tried to do everything for everyone. I spent all day telling my employees how to do their jobs. After two years, my employees started leaving in droves. One man told me he just didn't respect a leader who couldn't let go."

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