Leaders, Beware the Seven Deadly Sins of Disrespect

Over the last two months, the Christian world observed the season of Lent.  During that time period the faithful are called to search inside, critique their lives and discover opportunities for improving their spiritual being, by improving relationships with their fellow human beings. The traditional, more superficial idea of “giving up” things like candy or alcohol, has given way to a more introspective call to “work on” faults and failings; in order to become a better version of self.

For managers and executives aspiring to Conscious Leadership, I have some suggestions that combine the best of both lenten approaches:  “give up” some disrespectful habits, and “work on” improving your relationships with ‘others’.

From childhood, we have all heard and read about the mortally destructive effects of the “7 Deadly Sins”: Anger, Greed, Sloth, Pride, Lust, Envy and Gluttony. Unfortunately it seems very few managers and even fewer C-level executives are ever adequately schooled in the destructive effect of the 7 Deadly Sins of Disrespect“. Let’s look at them, one at a time:

#1 – “I’m so much more competent than all those ‘other people’ who report to me, so I’ll personally direct all the important work and make all the important decisions”

The fundamental character flaw of the micro-manager is deep insecurity about their own abilities, which evidences itself in berating, belittling and ignoring the contributions of others. The need to control virtually everything results in serial disrespect for other people’s work, with little regard  for the amount of effort expended to produce deliverables. WORK ON:  Let it go! Accept coworkers’ efforts with appreciation and guide them to grow. Allow others to fail, and use those lessons to help them blossom and develop. Copernicus demonstrated quite clearly – you are not the center of the universe…and that was several centuries ago!

#2 – “My phone call is more important than ‘other people’s’ time”

The cell phone has given every navel-peering executive what he/she always wanted for Christmas but never got until now..the excuse and the means to remain totally self-absorbed at all times.  WORK ON:  Turn off the phone; pay attention to your staff’s input; be present for them; demonstrate that you value them by giving them your time and attention.

#3 – “I’m far too busy to worry about being on time”

Self-absorption is quickly becoming a theme here. Obviously, you’re a Very Important Person, otherwise they would not have given you that outrageously flattering title. Stands to reason ‘other people’ should feel honored just to have you attend meeting. They certainly won’t mind if you don’t have enough respect for them to show up on time.  WORK ON:  Make the effort to be punctual; show respect. Demonstrate by your actions that you hold them in high regard.

#4 – “Surely you don’t mind if I interrupt.”

‘Other people’ cannot possibly be dealing with matters as important as you are, can they? You need an answer…now! Your self-importance commands the immediate disruption of the meeting-in-progress so you may divert everyone’s time and attention to your self-important issue…for as long as you deem necessary.  WORK ON:  WAKE UP! Smell the resume ink! The printers in your office are working overtime producing exit visas for all those ‘other people’ you habitually dis-respect.  Unless your hair truly IS on fire, be polite; wait your turn.

#5 – “That was LAST week’s Vision; you all need to get on board with THIS week’s Vision”

Why do ‘other people’ seem to need a long term goal to work toward? Can’t they understand this organization needs to be all things to all customers at all times…and be better at it than any other company? Your insecurity renders you incapable of committing to any course of action beyond today’s lunch selection, and you feel like you need to keep every conceivable option open. Instead of clearly articulating an inspirational, principled vision of a future-state for the organization, you require ‘other people’ to march down every opportunistic blind alley you stumble into. You call this “agility”.  WORK ON:  Quit wasting ‘other people’s’ time chasing shiny objects. Seek their input; create a coherent, inspirational vision; unite the team around common goals and move the organization forward with intent and purpose. Learn to take the long view.

#6 – “You sent me a report? Are you sure?”

You are a VERY busy person, so why should ‘other people’ assume you have time to read their emails or review their reports? If they think their work is so darned important they ought to remind you every so often and prod you until you’re good and ready to look at it. When you gave them that assignment it was really important, but you’ve moved on, and it no longer makes any difference WHAT their report says…unfortunately you never bothered to tell them. Self-absorption knows no limits, not even the callous wasting of the time, energy, talent, and self-respect of others.  WORK ON:  Get your head out of your IPhone and honor the efforts of others.  Stay current with communications. Be a conduit, not a dead-letter box!

#7 – “I don’t remember agreeing to that.”

You deal with issues so much more important than those ‘other’ people, it’s simply unrealistic for anyone to expect you to remember everything you’ve said. After all, you probably only said it to get them off your back for a few days anyway. They should understand that, shouldn’t they?  WORK ON:  Realize that ‘others’ see right through your charade.  Integrity is the price of admission to “Enlightened Leadership”. If you don’t have some, you better grow some, because until you get some you don’t stand a chance of leading…REALLY leading.

Enlightened Leadership is other-centered Leadership, pure and simple. Aspiring leaders need to embrace and embody an attitude of service to others and demonstrate, by one’s actions, a sense of respect for ‘others’ and value for their efforts as individuals and as team members. Engagement and discretionary effort cannot be compelled but will be given freely to leaders who treat others with conspicuous regard.