A Great Leadership Principle

During our residential version of The Leadership Challenge┬« Workshop, we utilize a high ropes challenge course, to help cement the lessons around experimenting and taking risks, coaching and encouraging, challenging preconceived beliefs, and other important leadership behaviors. Recently a young man attended, who openly admitted having a severe fear of heights. Yet, he still participated, willing himself to confront this fear. When asked by his colleagues, how he was able to do this, he provided a very telling answer. He simply said, “it is disrespectful not to give your very best.”

That statement struck home with all of us. Treating people with dignity and respect is a fundamental principle of leadership. And for many of us, we likely viewed respect more in terms of how we personally interact with others. Yet, this leader opened our eyes to a new way of showing respect – by doing our very best. I am not sure I ever connected the relationship between respecting others and doing one’s best so clearly.

I hope you will take Jerry’s words to heart, as I have, in everything you do. If we can all make progress in living up to this ideal, we will no doubt become better leaders. Good luck on your continuing leadership journey.


  1. Mickey Meis says:

    Hi Steve2:

    Jody passed me your email. This leadership lesson about giving your very best transcends several Pracitices, most notably Model The Way, as doing your best sets the example for others to follow and when you expect the best from others you have shown them what that means thru your personal behavior.



    • Mickey,

      Part of our role as leaders is to do what we can to inspire others to give their best all the time. Based on your very perceptive comment about Model the Way, that shines the light back on us, to make sure we are giving our best all the time. That is a daunting challenge, but an ideal worth pursuing. Thanks for your insights, Mickey.

  2. Thanks for sharing this story, Steve. Jerry offers a refreshing perspective on what it means to show respect. This is a wonderful lesson for all of us to take to heart, whether as parents, students, neighbors, team members, or friends. This is a story I am going to tell and retell in my speeches. Take care.

  3. Steve-

    Just about the time I think I’ve heard all possible replies, all possible outcomes, all possible comments… a new one comes! It’s a reminder that there are still lessons to be learned, new perspectives to be heard and possibilities to be shared. This is a gem! I would have loved to have asked, “tell us more!”

    Carrpe Diem!


    • Dave,

      The look on his face may have answered your question. Just a genuine, no frills expression, which communicated his values and beliefs about the way he should deal with other people. Given how respectful of a guy he is, he must be giving his best a lot. Thanks for your comments.

  4. Excellent post, Steve! Jerry’s simple, yet complex, comments cause me to reflect on what fears I’m allowing me to give less than my personal best. As I experience the outdoor TLCW at Camp Joy later this month, I too will have fears — and remembering Jerry’s powerful comment will push me forward. Thanks for sharing his story!

    • Angie,

      We tend to trust others who are willing to be vulnerable much more than we trust those who remain guarded or aloof. Giving one’s best, especially when there is fear, shows a willingness to be both open and vulnerable, thus contributing to trust and respect. Enjoy your time at camp, it will be a memorable experience. Thanks for your comments.

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