Backstage Interview: Leaders Must Earn Respect Regardless of Rank

Does your ethical leadership influence your followers more than your title?


Ethical leadership is one of the true benchmarks of a Leader Worth Following. In this video, former Navy Seal Commander, Rorke Denver, talks about the business code of ethics in the context of his military experience.

During this exclusive Leadercast Live backstage interview, Rorke discusses the heart of the military salute, and its symbolism as it relates to leadership ethics. More than just a sign of courtesy, the military salute is a sign of respect. In business, however, team members and employees don't simply follow leaders because of a title -- they follow because they respect your leadership principles and approach.

As Rorke explains, respect is earned, and those who have a high regard for you, your vision and goals continue to show respect when you have won their trust, exemplified bravery through challenges, honored your commitments, and demonstrated leadership in accordance with the rules or standards of your profession. Whether you are an emerging leader, seasoned leader, or engaged team member, Rorke believes that everyone should aspire to model ethics in business, community, and professional and personal relationships.

When I talk about rank in the military and my experience in the military, it's unique. There's a structure there that has tremendous tradition. So if a junior sailor or airman or marine, sees a senior officer, they're supposed to render a salute. That's a courtesy. I never saw that as something that means we're different or that I'm above you. I thought it was a tradition that actually meant something and it was based on hopefully respect you earned. But it occurred to me that if I was going to be worth my salt as a leader, that I want that salute or that calling me sir to have real iron, that they wanted to say it because I'd earned that, not because I would just wearing rank on my collar.

I think some leaders, probably in the military and otherwise have forgotten that. Have forgotten, that the higher you go up the chain of command, the higher you go up the flagpole, the more people you're now in service to, not the other way around. Then there are people that have realized that the higher they go up, the more they achieve, well all these people work for me. It's the reverse. It's that now there are more people you can serve. You have influence and the ability to make decisions that can benefit your troupes, benefit your folks and then in the greater context hopefully benefit the country and the world, which is one of the real treats of getting to serve in the US military. That's the way I look at it, that, that rank has to be earned way above and beyond the fact that you went to officer school.

Rorke Denver

Commander Rorke T. Denver, founder of Ever Onward, has run every phase of training for the U.S. Navy SEALs and led special-forces missions in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and other international hot spots. He starred in the ...

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