Can we achieve a mutually respectful society despite the fact that we are different from the person next to us and every other person on our planet? Our uniqueness consists of what Respectwe believe and what we do not believe; the color of our skin or hair; our language or dialect; height; gender; physical ability, material status, and any other variation that makes us different and unique individuals physically, mentally, and spiritually. I suggest that everyone indeed recognizes this basic concept – we are all different.

So what is the problem? Being different and unique should not equate to divisive behavior. This behavior then produces labels, and labels used improperly further divisions. Who engages in this divisive behavior? Probably every person at some point in life has said something divisive based upon differences to one degree or another. We have all made some mistakes. Unfortunately, too many individuals and organizations keep repeating this destructive behavior and it has negative consequences to countless people and can even become ingrained in cultures and across generations.

Look around. Turn on the television, surf the internet, read books and you will see divisiveness manifested in far too many places. Do we really need to pit one person or group against another?  What are the motives behind this behavior? Motives come from within each person, thus each person should reflect upon their own motives for what is underneath this destructive behavior.

So what is the solution? Let’s start with the fact that we have one thing in common – we are all human beings. As such, our differences can be used as a positive thing. Each person’s experiences, beliefs, upbringing, education, etc. provide different ideas into collective conversations and are especially valuable in problem solving if we would put away our prejudices. Why don’t we tap into the positive differences and use them to benefit us all? We are not robots. We are living, breathing, people that share a planet and have individual hopes and dreams. We would also suggest that every human being wants to be happy, even those that are not. One person’s happiness may look different from another person’s happiness, but the same essence is inherent.

What if we respected each person’s differences and definition of happiness? As a society can we do that? Can we refrain from negatively judging these differences and instead see the richness that these differences can provide us? What would the outcome look like? How do we actually accomplish mutual respect as a society?

We believe there are two parallel routes to accomplishing a mutually respectful society:

  1. Every leader commits to modeling, guiding, teaching, and leading a mutual respectful direction in the places they lead. Starting in the home and going all the way to the top of every organization or country.
  2. Individuals make a commitment to lead themselves in a mutually respectful manner and require their leaders do the same.

While these 2 steps may sound oversimplified, they are the right actions to take and every person can play a part in changing society for the better. Can it be messy and complicated along the way? Yes. It will indeed. If people are committed, can it be accomplished? We believe it can if people are actively doing their part. However, leaders at all levels need to lead the way. If every leader of every organization – small and large, profit and non-profit, civil and public servants – led in a way that showed worth to every person and organization that was different from them, others will follow. It takes courage, integrity, and respect. As a healthy society, we all deserve this approach.

In the book, The Leadership Compass: Mapping Your Leadership Direction we explain how the most effective leaders exemplify a set of behaviors and attitudes that lend to their success and the success of their organizations. At the foundation is personal character. In creating a mutually respectful society it begins with the right behaviors and attitudes that comprise exceptional personal character. Those with personal character respect others, despite differences.

Will each of us make the commitment to take actions in creating a mutually respectful society and require our leaders to do the same? We hope so and that is one of the many reasons we have started the Renew Leadership Movement. Please join us, chime in on the discussions, and commit to your personal development including personal character, so we can be the change we want to see in our sphere of influence and ultimately our larger society.


Sidney McDonald

Author, executive coach, and leadership expert, Sidney works with university and corporate clients in growing their talent and results within all levels of the organization.

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