In drafting the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote these words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are empowered by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  Respect for an individual’s rights and recognizing their humanity–regardless of who that person is or their position in a society or organization–is a fundamental characteristic of great leaders like Thomas Jefferson.  But it is not just historical precedent that supports the idea of leaders respecting the intrinsic worth and dignity of others. Research finds that mutual respect between leaders and followers is correlated with higher levels of both job performance and the well-being of everyone in an organization (Clarke & Mahdi, 2017).

The specific actions associated with high levels of mutual respect include:

  1. Demonstrated sensitivity to each other’s personal and moral beliefs.
  2. Valuing each other as people.
  3. Accepting each other’s right to have differing opinions even if we do not agree with them.
  4. Understanding and respecting each other’s differences.
  5. Treating each other with fairness and consideration.
  6. Forming a working relationship with integrity and dignity

History and science both find respecting the dignity of others a powerful leadership force. 


Clarke, N., & Mahadi, N. (2017). Mutual Recognition Respect Between Leaders and Followers: Its Relationship to Follower Job Performance and Well-Being. Journal of Business Ethics141(1), 163–178.