Do you believe that other people have rights, just like you do? That their experiences and insights are as valid as your own? That all human beings have an inherent dignity and worth, regardless of any differences in culture, outlook, or belief system that may exist between them? Do you believe that people have a right to be treated well, and that you should treat them as you yourself would want to be treated? Accountable leaders do. They are committed to a safe place to work–and that means, among other things, a workplace where respect is the norm.
They live in the Accountable Mindset of Respect. To live there, all you have to do is recognize that you are a human being, that one of the core requirements of human beings is connection with other human beings via functioning relationships, and accept that relationships function best for both parties when there is some aspect of respect on both sides. Ideally, this respect grows and develops over time. What does respect look like in action? What does it really mean? It means making sure that everyone has a seat at the table and that everyone at the table has a voice and a chance to speak, regardless of their rank, their department, their appearance, their level of influence within the group, or their age. Respect means accepting that every viewpoint matters, even if it is not one we share. We may not always agree with what someone has to say, and we may not always be able to make everyone happy with the decisions we make, but we still need to make sure that the people we come in contact with are always encouraged to speak and always heard with an open mind. That is what makes people feel respected.
Respect means looking the other person in the eye, whether they are wearing a three-piece suit or they are out on the street pushing around a shopping cart. It means interacting with them with authentic curiosity and compassion, whether they look like we do or not, whether they talk like we do or not, whether we agree with them or not. It means accepting that no matter where they show up in the pecking order, they are a fellow human being, making the same cradle to grave journey we are making.
When we respect someone, we make an effort to learn what kinds of challenges that person is dealing with, even if they have dramatic differences with us in terms of perspective, background, or appearance. When we respect someone, we choose to work on the assumption that we are each members of the same human family, and that we each deserve to be treated as such.
The opposite of this Mindset is the toxic Mindset of Contempt. In this Mindset, we assume that the other person has no rights we are bound to observe, no feelings or insights we can benefit from understanding, and no aspirations we are obliged to understand. When we consider another human being solely as a means to an end — our end — and we treat them accordingly, we are locked into the toxic Mindset of Contempt.
Contempt is rooted in passing judgment on other people. As soon as we pass judgment on another person, our respect for that person vanishes, we set up a comparison between us and them, and contempt takes over. We start coming up with arguments that support the idea that we are better and they are worse, or that we are more qualified and they are less qualified, or that we are more intelligent and they are less intelligent, or that our opinion is closer to right and theirs is closer to wrong. That is not how an emotionally safe workplace operates.
Very often, habits of passing judgment and showing contempt show up in our lives because that is how we were taught to socialize: to pass judgment on one person or groups of people in order to score social points with another person or groups of people. If that is the case, we need to acknowledge that passing judgment is what happened and we need to learn new ways to socialize that do not come at someone else’s expense. Because every time we pass judgment, that sets the stage for contempt, and every time we show contempt, we steep ourselves in a dysfunctional mindset, a mindset that makes respect impossible. Every time we step into the toxic mindset of contempt, we not only devalue others, we devalue ourselves.
Accountable leaders choose Respect over Contempt!