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The Difference Between Respect and Fear

Updated: Jun 14, 2019

Collectively we are embracing new ideas on what creates power in leadership.

Many years ago I worked as a server at a very busy restaurant, and had a boss who regularly informed the staff what a horrible job we all were doing. The restaurant was breaking sales records, and the owner also went out of his way to say we weren't doing enough, and added degradation to our uniform. They both worked incredibly hard, were exhausted, and complained that the staff was unappreciative. They both thought that you push people to excellence through punishment. That perfection could only be reached through perfection's standards, and that fear and the treatment of not being good enough is the only way to produce even better results. They both misunderstood the difference between fear and respect.

This is such a common misperception. World leaders embody the lie that the only way to stay in power is by belittling others. These people mistakenly think there's only dominance or submission. Bullies try to maintain power by creating fear, and certainly, fear motivates us. But it also limits us.

Obtaining power through diminishing someone else results in fear; obtaining power through the upliftment of others, creates respect. That's the difference.

Bullies use fear as a tool because it's how they've been taught to maintain power. It's because they themselves are afraid, and I am not trying to vilify them. We all learn our behavior somewhere. It's important as a leader to respect yourself first, so that you can truly give and receive respect, and sometimes that is a journey as well. It doesn't come from belittlement, true respect comes from love. Love of self, love of others - LOVE. This love leads to happiness, and the absence of it leads to conflict. Love has nothing to do with giving permission to what is out of integrity, or being weak. Quite the opposite - love is strength. In life we're always using the best tools we know how to get by. For a long time, society has taught us the old model of power, and that's all we've known. Sometimes though, we're also really trying to get our own attention, that there are better ways to achieve the results we want. I've seen this over and over in business.

The strange thing about that company, is that they did have a policy of always showing gratitude towards the guest, competent efficiency in terms of product delivery, and an incredible view. They had moderate success (a lot of money coming in, but a lot of money going out), without a happy work life. They never met their true goal. They didn't have respect or appreciation for their staff, and so of course, the staff felt the same. The manager and owner were not respected; they were feared. The threat of losing your job was feared. But that fear does not motivate greatness. And you can never truly offer respect to people who do not give it.

Respect is a two-way street, if you want to get it, you've got to give it. R.G. Risch

There is nothing wrong with high standards, but they are only reached by the right foundation. They had no sexual harassment policy there, and indeed, how can you ask for high achievement with such permission for mistreatment. But why would they worry about a respectful environment, when respecting employees was not their priority? They did not understand respect. And why worry about changing a standard that our industry has so normalized? It's not even neglect as much as an old, outdated pattern our culture is still in. Sometimes in life we get busy in patterns that aren't serving us, and the results make our lives even that much more distracting to manage. Any kind of diminishment of others never truly creates success. It creates frustrating companies, endless problems to solve, and efforted struggling. It creates unhappy worklife.

As human beings, we are still learning so much about truly honoring one other. It astounds me that the apartheid ended in 1994, and that there are parts of the world - RIGHT NOW - where women are forbidden to be educated... That indeed, we still have so far to go.

“We have this incredible capacity for cooperation; it’s what makes us human in many ways,” psychologist Nour Kteily says. “And yet we have this capacity for othering.”

Sometimes we really do forget that it's another human being standing across from us, with their own dreams and ambitions, their own inalienable right to their pursuit of happiness. I know there are reasons we forget this, and sometimes we are working so, so hard and missing the point. Sometimes the very thing we complain about is the very beast we're feeding. You have to look at the foundation to build something right. Certainly within our culture, we've been interacting in ways that are out of integrity. The small, primal part of the brain wants to point to outsiders and blame, but you have to look deeper than that. I look at the world now and think how easy it is to see how problems originate, how connected we all are, how blessed I really am, and then I focus on what I want to contribute. We are all always learning about all of these things.

"He who loves others is constantly loved by them. He who respects others is constantly respected by them." - Mencius

What matters most, is moving forward. There is change happening in our culture right now - more respect, more connection. We've been receiving nudges from our soul that hey, it doesn't have to be this way. Something doesn't feel right, and we're alerted to it. Sometimes we might even resist change, but then our manifested reality insists that change must come, and we start looking for ways to create differently. At Highest Good Consulting, one of the cool things we really focus on, is the inherent innocence of it all. That isn't an excuse to settle for what is out of integrity, but if you really take the time to talk to someone, it's very easy to understand how they formed their model of the world (what drives them and creates their behavior). We excel at creating new models, and new ways of thinking that honor everyone. Any challenge just needs the willingness to care, to be open, to embrace change, and to listen to the inspiration from your soul. We are all always learning from each other. There is greatness in you, and part of building this company is the recognition that we all need others to help us grow. That's the nature of expansion.

As you rise as a leader, some people may not be ready to join you. They may be offered inspiration and choose to stay in fear; to play in power through the diminishment of others. Let them leave. Everyone always has a choice, and if people want to keep playing small then they can choose to stay in the confinement (and unhappiness) of that, and you can genuinely wish them the best on their journey. Others will come who are ready to be at the level of success you are going to embody. You deserve a team of people ready to build a higher vision, and part of respecting yourself and others is the grace of calling forward greatness, and the boundary of who you surround yourself with.

You call forward greatness from the people you respect and empower.

"An employee who is appreciated will always do more than expected." - unknown

We love coaching individuals and groups. Reach out for a free consultation.

Check out our sexual harassment policy which we believe is the necessary foundation to respectful work environments.

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