Picture yourself as a world leader. You’ve got to deal with despots, as well as the wise and beneficent leaders of other nations. Among the whole crowd of rulers, you won’t respect a few of them. In fact, you won’t like them or trust them.
What do you do? Do you spurn them? No. You try to reach them on some level, through diplomacy and even-handedness. You’re firm and fair. You hold tightly to your values without imposing them on these wayward characters. You try to influence and persuade them, which requires understanding their feelings and their wants. You shape your communications in a way that will get them to listen and respond. You treat them with respect even when you don’t respect them.
None of this comes easily. And it doesn’t always work. In truth, it usually doesn’t work. Their responses might be erratic. You may get through to them once in a blue moon. You might ask why you should even bother, since you’re right and they’re wrong.
So, do you give up? No way.
If you don’t try to understand people, especially those who don’t seem to deserve your attention, then you’re not really a leader. If you refuse to try, you may induce war, and in war, everybody loses something.
Lesson: Even if you don’t respect people from time to time, treat them with respect and you’ll make out better in the long run.
—Adapted from Coaching Yourself to , Ginny O’Brien, HRD Press.