The High Road Of Respect

To respect others is the high road in leadership. It is generally acknowledged in our country that we have great need to embrace a culture of mutual respect. Most of us will probably agree that we should cultivate respect for the dignity and potential of all our citizens, irrespective of race, economic standing, and disability. We have daily examples of excesses reported in the media where considerable harm is done to relationships and possibly to the fibre of our nation due to the actions of people who do not show respect for the dignity and potential of others. These negative occurrences represent a dangerous culture of violence, crime and corruption. This does not only apply to criminals, but such lack of respect is too often found at the highest levels of our community, and far too often in our homes.

Respect for the dignity and potential of others

Respect for the dignity and potential of others is a quantum leap forward in human relationships and performance. Few things motivate us more than the perception that others have a real respect for us and for our potential. The opposite is of course also true – few things demotivate and hurt us as much as the feeling that others distrust us and have contempt for our dignity and potential. Let me illustrate with a personal example of an incident that happened more than fifty years ago.

The first time I was called up as a sixteen year old to join the first and second rugby team squad, I was very young and rather fearful. These were big and older okes, more experienced and confident than me on the park. It was during the course of one of the first practice games that I was placed on the wing in the second team, facing a tall and very fast first team wing. The opposite opposing backline got moving and I found myself facing the opposing centre and wing at the same time. I did not have a clue what to do. The centre drew me and then provided the fast wing with an overlap. It was like giving Brian Habana a clear goal line. He raced away and I was left stranded. I followed him on my shorter legs and then somehow launched a desperate tackle and managed to grab him around the ankles from behind. He fell like a tree and the ball fell loose. As I picked myself up off the grass, I could hear my fellow ‘brekers’ grunt with admiration. A moment later I heard behind me the words of our respected coach, Mr Beukes, saying: ‘This young man has great potential!’

It was nice hearing the sounds of approval of older colleagues, but it was inspirational hearing the coach express his belief in my potential. He subsequently brought out the best in me!

Relationship between dignity and potential

To treat others with respect is generally considered to be good manners. To somehow convey to others the feeling that they are seen as people with great potential to do good and reach for excellence is far more than good etiquette. It is one of the most precious gifts that any person can possess! To inspire others to believe in their potential is an ultimate expression of respect and true charity. It is the one occurrence that can provide a genuine quantum leap forward in a person (or group’s) image of self and potential.

To treat others with respect in terms of respecting their dignity is just the beginning of the leadership potential all of us can learn to master. To learn to inspire others with trust in their potential is what respect is all about.


It is common wisdom that all good relationships are built on trust. But trust is built on perceived respect for the dignity and potential of each other. It is in this regard that many of us have not yet grown up. We keep on clinging to the lie that we can build relationships and be leaders without recognising that trust is built on sincere respect for the dignity and potential of others.

Facing the obstacles standing in our way to gain trust in others

Very few of us have the natural gift to respect both the dignity and at the same time see the potential in others. It requires many learning experiences along the way! We need to face the greater enemy within as discussed in a Leadership Platform article a few weeks ago.

Facing the enemy within

Honesty in regard to our own personal prejudices is an imperative if we are serious about learning to respect others and see their potential. We need to embrace the courage to face our prejudice and ignorance if we want to gain respect for our self. As we do this, we will grow in self-trust and in the values we believe in. This self-belief is the basis of respect for others. It is extremely difficult to lift others to higher levels if we are not on a higher level our self.

As we grow in trust in universal principles and values we will likewise be empowered to believe in others around us. We will then possess sincere empathy and belief in the potential of others. People respond when they feel that you respect yourself and believe in your values. I find this to work, don’t you?

Sharp leaders

Our great country has great need of more Sharing, Respecting and Performing (SHARP) leaders.  Are you and I committed to become SHARP leaders?

This article was featured in the:

The Workplace




Louis has been fanatically endeavoring to uncover universal leadership principles and models for longer than most of us have been alive. He is an author, leadership expert, father, grandfather, and the Co-Founder of Leadership Platform.

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