Which Is a Better Leader? A Conversation on Results and Respect.

by  Jon Mertz  |  Self Leadership

I believe conversations make us stronger leaders. We need to explore topics, challenge ourselves to think and understand, and learn ways to be a better leader. In the Lead Change Google+ group, we pose a different question each week. A few weeks ago, we asked:

Which is a better leader:  A leader with big results and some respect, or a leader with limited results and much respect?

There is no doubt that having respect, giving respect, and maintaining respect are all crucial. Respect is more than a leadership characteristic; it is a human one. However, in many organizations, there is a push to gain results quickly and often and some may take shortcuts to achieve the desired results. Although there may be some short-term benefits to this approach, the longer term impact can be very detrimental.

Respect versus Results

Highlighted below are some short clips from some of the Lead Change community insights:

David Tumbarello:  This is one of those trick questions, right?  My first reaction is this:  How do you define results? I mean, if results mean my team produced 19 widgets per hour while the other team produces 17 widgets, then my team is producing more “results.” But if the leader of the other team is developing a platoon of aspiring leaders who produce better quality, help the company towards higher goals, and are ready to serve as leaders or mentors for future teams, then I would say that leader has me beat.

This question goes back to how I view leadership — with the end in mind.  First define the “end” then ask “What is the most effective way to get this particular team to achieve that end?”

Scott Mabry:  Depends on your time horizon and a little bit of context. If you’re business is in a crisis, you might choose results over respect in the short term …which, paradoxically, might gain you respect later.

Mike Henry Sr.: I agree with both David and Scott in that results must be specific and they must have a deadline. Once we set a target for results, we can’t trade results (at the deadline) with respect or anything else (except for different results) for that matter. Results are table-stakes. A leader who respects others will produce results or accept the consequences.  Then, they will be a leader who is respected, regardless of the short-term outcome of a particular effort. Heck of a non-answer, don’t you think?

Kate Nasser: Results without respect vaporize or worse, leave a legacy of brutality. Just read a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article quoting research that abusive leaders were mentored by abusive leaders. Since respect doesn’t reduce results, I say there is no reason to choose!

Real Leaders. Real Results. Real Respect

No one said leadership would be easy. The conversation is a thought-provoking one. Leaders are expected to achieve results. Leaders may not always have the expectation put on them to achieve results with respect. After all, quarterly meetings and calls usually perform a check on results, not on how respect was maintained and enhanced. Imagine what would those interactions would be like!

Just think though, the very definition of respect is “a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” Abilities produce results. Qualities deliver integrity. Achievements occur when people collaboratively work toward clear objectives.

A leader’s responsibility then is to:

  • Define the sound leadership qualities they want to exhibit and then consistently lead by them
  • Gather the right people with the right skills or train the right people to get the necessary skills
  • Deliver clarity of objectives, metrics, responsibilities, accountability, culture, and then let the teams do their work
  • Instill a culture of respect organization-wide, community-wide.

When a leader does this, politics disappear and more time can be spent on doing the work necessary to achieve the desired results in a respectful way. Time and context are better leveraged. In the HBR article Kate Nasser mentioned, it points out a plain fact:  When team leaders have to protect their teams from bad organizational leaders, much time is wasted. Doing this is exhausting. We have enough change to navigate without having to maneuver around leaders who don’t act with integrity and clarity.

As we lead for results, we need to remember to also lead with respect. Leading this way will make all involved much more productive and engaged.

Join in. What is the ideal balance between results and respect? 

What’s Next? Please leave a comment below to join the conversation…

About The Author

Articles By jon-mertz
Jon Mertz is one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business and author of Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders. At Thin Difference, Jon writes and facilitates a conversation on how to empower, challenge, and guide the next generation of leaders.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Mike Henry  |  21 Jan 2014  |  Reply

Well done! Thanks for a great post. It is energizing to consider my own beliefs about issues like this when challenged by the other thinkers in the group. I appreciate how you pull all of this together. Thanks. Mike…

Jon Mertz  |  22 Jan 2014  |  Reply

Thank you, Mike, for your insights in the conversation. I agree. Having spirited conversations is what helps our leadership thoughts and actions. Jon

LaRae Quy  |  21 Jan 2014  |  Reply

Well done, Jon! You’ve done a nice job of pulling the thoughts of great leaders together on an important topic.

Jon Mertz  |  22 Jan 2014  |  Reply

Thank you, LaRae. Always wonderful to get insights from a larger community. Thanks! Jon

Ruth Schwartz  |  29 Jan 2014  |  Reply

I liked that you posed this question as well, John
I believe that both respect and results are important. But past behavior of results without respect is coming to an end. The data is in. More respect, more collaboration, more partnership brings better results even if it takes a little bit longer. This is the “teach a man to fish” story… help others understand and impact the results and you will eat forever.

Jon Mertz  |  02 Feb 2014  |  Reply

I agree, Ruth. Collaborative work is the way forward and this takes a healthy dose of respect.. Through these partnerships, we will gain better results more consistently. Thanks for your comments, Ruth! Jon

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