Is Full Leadership Achieved with Respect?

We often hear someone say: I cannot become a leader if I do not occupy an important position. Martin Luther King said instead that a leader does not need formal recognition.

Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, or William Wallace are indisputably three leaders: the first was the champion of the outcast and marginalized and fought against ethnic prejudices, the second was the theorist of civil disobedience as a tool to resist oppression, while the third was a Scottish national hero who led his countrymen to rebel against the British occupation of Scotland.

Well, none of them were raised and educated in order to become a leader, nor did they ever hold a privileged position that would suggest that in the course of his existence he would become a leader “by natural right”. These three people fought for what they believed in and were able to be followed by many people. The secret (for them at least) lay in the ability to make men and women identify with the leader’s “struggle”, that is, being able to lead by example and respect.

Most leaders come from low or intermediate positions in society and not from top positions. Yet even today many people believe they can do nothing to change things that are not right simply because, within their organization, they do not hold a high enough position.

In reality, anyone in the company can leave a significant mark (as a leader) only thanks to their work.

On the one hand, it could be said that the secret is to try to influence bosses, peers, and collaborators, in short, a 360° leadership. But, at the same time, this is the real difficulty: many are able to lead their men but very few know how to relate better to colleagues who belong to their same level or, even worse, with superiors. Then there are also those who manage to set up excellent teamwork with their boss but are absolutely unable to manage the people entrusted to them.

Ultimately, it is difficult to find a person capable of leading and influencing all levels of a company, regardless of their role in it.

Becoming a leader, therefore, is something within the reach of anyone who has the right skills, is committed to leading or influencing others, and is willing to work deeply and consistently on this.

Any one of us knows well in which field he excels and in which, instead, he needs to improve and that is exactly what we need to do if we want to play a leadership role capable of being followed by people who often start from a better education than ours or who they have different skills.

The mistake that very often a person who is asked to be in charge of a work team makes is that he cares more about having his authority recognized with a title on paper rather than working to build relationships and thus become, influential within their team. Over time, it is quite obvious that this person will feel disappointed and frustrated because they work a lot and do not see anything recognized, and because they do not feel recognized with any authority by the other members of the group.

The problem, after all, is all here: working to impress your manager and having a role recognized and formalized pays much less than proving that you have become true leaders for the group of people entrusted to us.

When the position is recognized by right, people follow the “leader” because they are forced to do so. The influence, in this case, does not go beyond the job description of the manager who, if he prolongs his presence as the leader of the group of collaborators, will only negatively affect the morale of the entire team.

Sometimes the position is recognized thanks to the network of relationships: in this case, people follow the leader because they want to do it and are convinced that it represents the best choice. Colleagues agree to follow the leader because they recognize authority even if the superiors have not underlined it with formal recognition. The manager makes the work environment serene and is able to bring out the best in his men but, in the long run, if his commitment is not recognized, he tends to move elsewhere, leaving behind a group without a guide that will be difficult to lead again.

The position can also be recognized thanks to the results achieved: people follow the leader because they have seen what he can do and because they know that problems are solved with him, not simply put aside.

More credit as a leader is acquired by those who are committed to making their employees grow professionally. The leader who surrounds himself with people he wants to grow will be recognized for all the skills he needs to do his job better simply because, thanks to him, the collaborators will be able to train, learn, improve and see new perspectives in professional development. Continuing to grow those who work with us pays off, especially in the long term.

Ultimately, I believe that the best situation for a leader is created when that position is recognized thanks to the respect earned from everybody: that is the leader is respected and followed for what he represents within his organization, as a whole. This is the case of those people who have dedicated themselves for years to reality, leading it to grow and improve and,  even how they did it, have managed to obtain what is now a truly rare commodity within companies: respect precisely!

I would be interested to know what you think about the role that “earned on the field” respect plays in leadership.


Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo is a lawyer and teacher of law & Economic Sciences, "lent" to the finance world. He has worked, in fact, 35 years long for a multinational company of financial service in the auto sector, where he held various roles, until that of CEO. In the corporate field, he has acquired skills and held positions as Credit Manager, Human Resource Manager, Team leader for projects of Acquisition & Merger, branch opening, company restructuring, outplacement, legal compliance, analysis and innovation of organizational processes, business partnerships, relations with Trade Unions and Financial Control Institutions. After leaving the company, he continued as an external member of the Board of Directors e, at the same time, he has gone back practicing law and was a management consultant for various companies. He has been also a columnist for newspapers specializing in labor law, automotive services and work organization. His interests include human behavior in the organizational environment, to the neuroscience, the impact of new technologies, the fate of the planet and people facing poverty or war scenarios. He loves traveling, reading, is passionate about many sports, follows the NBA and practices tennis.

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  1. Earned respect in leadership is actual power. That’s outside the scope of position.

    When you earn respect as a leader, that’s your personal power, emotional power and spiritual power shining through the darkness.

    I seek to be a growing light in the world.

    That’s not an authority position but a personal leadership role.

    Thus, I position myself to lead people in many more ways than someone who has not earned respect.

    Therefore I can make a positive impact as a leader without a position in someone else’s organization.

    That’s the role of earned respect in leadership! Making a positive impact as you walk through each moment.

    Each person who dares to do so can become a beacon of hope in even the tiniest encounter.

    Just as in the 360-degrees you cite!

    Questions and action are two keys that create the kind of growth form the path to earned respect.

    Thanks for your reflection Aldo! Brilliant.