Respect: Earn it, or Never Get it

Karl H Christ
2 min readAug 14, 2023

There are people who inspire respect and there are those who demand it. Only one of them will earn it.

Generally speaking, the people who demand respect are autocrats, dictators, and bullies. They might receive the respect of some, but from most people all they will get is fear. Even if one respects and fears a leader, they are unlikely to be loyal to them. Their loyalty will only last so long as the leader is able to maintain fear. The leader who demands respect and loyalty and enforces them with fear will not be mourned when they meet their end. More likely it will be celebrated, and there’s a good chance that their fall from power comes because they were stabbed in the back.

A leader who demands respect is, typically, insecure, often incompetent, and unlikely to be respected. If they do not behave respectably, they will not be respected. If they do not treat others with respect, they will not earn respect in return.

The leaders who inspire respect don’t beg or demand anything. They don’t have to. One is inclined to follow them by the example they set and the way they behave. People follow them because they want to, because they like and admire them. The leader who inspires respect generally also better maintains the loyalty of those who follow them. And, in the event that they do fall from power, their followers will be inclined to retaliate against and destroy any backstabbers responsible.

A leader who inspires respect is confident, empathetic, and good at what they do. They are respectful, and the respect they show others is returned multiple times over.

I’ve had experience working for both these kinds of leaders. In the workplace, I’ve had bosses who demanded respect or took for granted that they must be respected, and those who didn’t, who earned respect seemingly without making any effort to do so.

There have been times when I respected someone as a leader, even if they weren’t technically my boss, far more than the person who outranked them in the leadership hierarchy.

If not in a professional workplace, but in an environment where a violent coup might happen, there have been bosses I’d gladly participate in dethroning and possibly executing, to replace them with another boss or colleague more worthy of respect.

These are things to keep in mind if you’re in a leadership position or hope to be. Consider the kind of leader you want to be. Do you want to have the respect of those you lead? Are you content to be feared and hated? The confidence you have in yourself, the example you set, and the way you treat others will determine the kind of leader you are, whether people will celebrate your rise or work towards your downfall.

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