“Anthony, as you know, I’ll travel to Spain tomorrow, my flight is at 7 pm, do you mind if I leave 10 minutes earlier so I can catch the train to the airport?”
“I think it’s better if you leave one hour earlier, just in case. Let’s check the train timetable together.”
“Really? You don’t have to do this.”
“Of course I do. You’ve always worked so hard, and you’re one of the most productive employees here. The least I can do is to make sure you don’t miss your flight. I know you’ve waited for this trip for a long time, and I think you deserve it.”
I was shocked. It was the first time in my career I felt treated as a person — not just as an employee or a number. My manager was not only allowing me to leave much earlier than I expected, but he was also helping me organize my trip to the airport.
Throughout my career I’ve met only few leaders like Anthony. If we take a closer look at those mature leaders who truly earned other people’s respect, we will see they tend to have in common the following five habits.
1. They Admit Their Mistakes
Harold J. Smith once said:
“More people would learn from their mistakes if they weren’t so busy denying them.”
Mistakes happen. And when they do you can’t travel back in time and change things. However, what you definitely can do is decide how to behave after making a mistake. You can either deny the truth and blame others, or admit what you’ve done and apologize.
As Jim Whitehurst explains in an article published in Harvard Business Review, admitting a mistake, and saying you’re sorry is essential to build your credibility and authority to lead. It’s a sign of strength, not weakness.
Mature leaders know this. And this is one of the reasons people tend to respect them more than they respect managers who don’t take responsibility for their mistakes.
2. They Follow Through
Mature leaders always do what they say they’re going to do. If something takes more time and efforts than they thought, they let you know.
Keeping your promises is a sign of integrity, and if you’re not able to do so, chances are you won’t be respected as a leader, because people are not going to trust your word in the long term. When you keep your word, instead, people will see strength, and you’ll start to earn their trust.
As Tim Clairmont explains in an article published in Forbes, in every relationship there’s a certain level of trust, which can be compared to a bank account. In particular he states: “Every time you make a promise — any promise — you make a contract that will result in either a deposit or a withdrawal in the trust bank.”
Clairmont explains that, if after making a promise you follow through, then that contract results in a deposit in the trust bank — in other words, the other person will trust you more. When you fail to keep your promise instead, then that contract converts into a withdrawal from the trust bank — which means the other person will trust you less.
I love the way Clairmont’s concept explains how trust works.
3. They First Seek to Understand, Then to Be Understood
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
– Stephen Covey
As Stephen Covey explained in his masterpiece The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, making an effort to understand others is an habit successful individuals have in common.
In particular, Covey talks about empathic listening, which means you should listen until the other person feels understood.
Mature leaders know the importance of listening and making other feel understood, especially because understanding others is key to good and healthy decision-making processes and prevents conflict.
4. They Respect Your Life Outside of Work
Mature leaders genuinely care about others.
A perfect example of this is Carlie Bush, VP and HR Service Delivery at Global Medical Response. I recently stumbled upon one of her LinkedIn posts, where she talked about an interview she had with a candidate via video chat. The candidate apologized because she had a toddler who she hoped would be napping — however, that was not the case.
Carlie encouraged the candidate to go and tend to the baby. And then she told her to continue the interview with the little one on her lap. In the end the interview went well and the candidate was brilliant.
See, leadership is all about bringing out the best in others. If you put others at ease, you make it easier for them to contribute in a meaningful way and perform well. As mentioned in an article published in Harvard Business Review, work-life balance starts with leadership.
5. They Delegate to Empower, Not to Get Rid of Their Tasks
Mature leaders work hard, usually more than the rest of the team. They are part of the team, and they don’t need to feel they’re above anyone.
An example of this is Matt, one of the best managers I’ve ever worked for. He was not just our team leader, he was truly part of the team, and probably one of the most hard-working team members. During the days we had to deal with a high volume of work, he worked with us and dealt directly with our customers, even if it wasn’t his job. And every time he did, he was amazing, he knew the job.
Also, another thing Matt often did was delegating some of his tasks. He wanted us to gain some managerial experience, so every week he chose one of us. He didn’t do it to save time, he worked hard and stayed at the office until 9 pm almost every day. It was clear he wasn’t the type of manager who tried to get rid of his tasks. He did it to give us more responsibilities, which eventually made all of us grow.
If you want to be respected as a leader, the first thing you need to keep in mind is you don’t have to be perfect. In fact, the opposite is true. It’s being human, vulnerable, and empathetic, admitting your mistakes, respecting your employees’ life outside of work, and empowering others, that eventually will help you build trust and earn respect.