The other day I was impressed with the following thought:

‘It is not so much differences in opinion that is hurting our country, but differences in respectfulness.’’ For some time now I have been intending to write something about the universal value of respectfulness and this is now probably a good time to do so.

What do we mean when we speak of respectfulness towards others?

Surely we cannot be expected to manifest respect for toxic behaviour in others around us!

It is quite startling to measure the state of an organisation and our society against a general mindset of respect for our self and for others. We find that almost every toxic behaviour we can think of can probably be blamed on the lack of self-respect and respectfulness shown towards others.

In view of the fact that we should not be expected to condone and respect toxic behaviour, what then should we be respecting?

There are three pillars of respectfulness to consider:

  • The pillar of dignity. So much harm is done to relationships and to people themselves by the manifestation of a lack of respect for the dignity of a person or peoples. Few things are as offensive to us as insults and demeaning behaviour. On the other hand, few things build relationships as effectively as a respect for the dignity of others. Racism, patronage, criminality, slandering and malice are some painful examples of the consequences of losing respect for the divine dignity of others.
  • The pillar of potential. Any manifestation of lack of respect for our potential can have a devastating impact on our self image and self respect. The tendency of modern cultures to label people in multiple ways has a powerful and destructive impact on people’s self respect, self-belief and therefore on their happiness in general. It is a terrible crime against the divine origin of humankind to label people into categories of limited potential, especially if such labelling are associated with a judgment of the person involved, as for example asserting that a person will never be able to be a good parent or student or worker or whatever. As soon as we categorise a person as falling within a bracket of severely limited potential, we are in danger of stepping over a line that may have dramatic negative implications on our own mindset and character as well as on the person or persons we are labelling. Parents (and leaders in general) often make the mistake of labelling their own children and then finding that the child lives up to the negative label. The contrary is fortunately often true as well. Respectful parents (leaders) often find that their children ultimately live up to positive reinforcement of their potential.
  • The pillar of contribution. Recently I was impressed with the tremendous role that our perception of making a valuable contribution plays in our own happiness and confidence as well as on our ability to positively influence the contribution of the other person. So often we measure another person’s contribution in the context of our limited tunnel vision of the role that the person plays to our way of thinking. The tragedy is often that our narrow definition of a person’s contribution may have a devastating impact on that person’s self-belief and performance in general. Our perception of that person’s contribution is also heavily impacted by our mindset in respect of that person’s potential and dignity.

The pillar of respectfulness for the contribution of others may be seen in two ways:

  • Heart-felt respect for the contribution of the other person/s around us.
  • Sincere efforts to give others hope to close the gap between existing performance and their potential. Integrating respect for existing performance and providing hope for potential performance is what authentic leadership is all about!

The three pillars are intertwined and cannot be separated.

The Me factor

Our ability to embrace respectfulness for others in the spirit of the above three pillars is directly in proportion to our respect for who and what we are. This is the big Me factor. I cannot lift another if I am not on higher ground. The principle is that we need to study out and embrace our own heritage of dignity, divine potential and contribution if we should desire to respect others authentically.   

The ills of society

If we were a nation with more integrity and authentic respect for each other, a great many of our most serious obstacles will simply go away! Just imagine our politicians, teachers, parents, society icons in general, and leading media commentators suddenly showing integrity and respect for the three pillars mentioned above!

It is not so much our differences of opinion that hurts our society, but our differences in respectfulness towards self and others.

Leadership audit questions

On a rating of one to ten (one being rotten and ten being kind of perfect), how do I rate my general mindset of respectfulness towards others?

Can I separate in my mind the difference between the dignity of a person and the perceived lack of performance of that person?

Do I have a deep-rooted respect for my own divine potential?

Do I feel a deep-rooted respect for the divine potential of others?

How do I rate in appreciating and expressing the contribution of others?

How do I rate in closing the gap between the other person’s existing performance and his or her potential performance?

The Big question:

Will I be rating myself more or less the same next week?

Louis Groenewald is a leadership expert and commentator. Do you recognise some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Louis on for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation.

For more on what we do to empower individual leaders, teams and organisations – read here

Adriaan Groenewald is a leadership expert and commentator. Do you recognise some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Adriaan on for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation. Follow him on Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP or @LeadershipPform.






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