I heard a wonderful thought about leadership recently. The circumstances were awful – the funeral of a friend who passed away far too young. But the commentary about my friend, and all she accomplished in her life, was truly beautiful. One speaker talked about what a natural leader she was, her whole life. He said she always put others first and was known for her intense and persistent caring of those around her.

He called her a leader and then stated that’s leadership, right? Caring about others.Putting them first.

One example he gave was particularly poignant. When my friend was in second grade (!!), a girl in a different class was upset about something to the point of being inconsolable. The teacher asked “honey, what can we do for you?” “I need to talk to [my friend],” she replied. The teacher went and pulled my friend out of her own classroom. My friend sat down with the crying girl for a few moments. Then, the girl returned to her classroom, all better. That was my friend. Always looking out for others.

If you think about leadership in the workplace, this sentiment resonates. The best leaders are those that take an interest in those around them, those they are charged with leading. What does taking an interest in others look like? Treating people with respect, indeed emanating respect. Leadership without respect is – well I’m not sure what to call it, but – it is not truly leadership.