What commands respect – you or your position?

We all want to be respected and valued! It’s an inherent desire of most human beings.

I still remember the day I became a team lead, a manager for the first time. I was elated and rushed to share the good news with my father. He was already gravely ill but was fully conscious and communicating with us.

He first congratulated me and then said, “remember what I told you years back….”

When I couldn’t recollect, he reiterated his advice, “Learn to differentiate between yourself and the position you hold. Don’t ever confuse between the two”.

It’s hard for a twenty something to understand the depth of this statement. I just nodded my head and moved on. However, with passing years, it started making more and more sense.

As we climb the corporate ladder and start gathering multi-colored feathers in our cap, we tend to feel more respected: people listen to us attentively, take our inputs, ask for our feedback, value our ideas as the best etc. etc… These are the times to engage in an honest reflection:

  1. Am I being respected for who I am, as an individual? As a Leader?
  2. Or am I being respected for the position I occupy?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of positional respect…I can recall so many instances when I got trapped in it – bullying my way through, unnecessarily using my veto power…. as people continued to nod respectfully (and probably cringing and raging from inside). What would they do if I wasn’t their boss? Or way to senior?

The sooner we realize the transient nature of our position, the better we are able to build our credibility as human beings and professionals too. It’s not an easy path, but the only one that’s worth embarking.

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