“Self-respect is the fruit of discipline; the sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself.” – Abraham Heschel

The other day, my grandmother told me something that made me feel really good: she told me I have dignity. It’s made me think about the ways I define dignity and how I carry it out in my life.

I looked up the definition of dignity, and it states:

  • self-respect: a proper sense of pride and self-respect
  • seriousness in behavior: seriousness, respectfulness, or formality in somebody’s behavior and bearing
  • worthiness: the condition of being worthy of respect, esteem, or honor
  • due respect: the respect or honor that a high rank or position should be shown
  • high office: a high rank, position, or honor

There’s a theme here… and it comes down to respect.

There are so many different forms of respect.

  • There is self-respect, which I’m happy is listed first in the definition, because I would prioritize it first as well. It’s about listening to yourself, not judging your feelings or emotions, and loving yourself for who you are. Which is truly the foundation upon all your future relationships.
  • There is respect for friends and family, making sure that instead of taking anyone in your life for granted, you appreciate and accept everyone for who they are and help them celebrate themselves… because that’s not something we do enough.
  • There is respect for others in the sense that leaders, and all of us, must respect everyone around them. This brings me back to a specific sentence when I developed my personal mission statement: “I incorporate leadership into my life by showing initiative, going for opportunities at full force, and always acting with respect for others.”
  • There is respect for the earth and where we have come from. We must take care of the world we are in, its plants and animals, as they cannot take care of themselves in the same ways we can.

Dignity plays a huge role in the nonprofit sector as well. We must always treat our clients with the utmost respect, to bring them up from challenging situations and instill in them the tools they need to thrive. In the office, we must treat our colleagues with respect. It can be difficult to always act with tact and grace when there are challenging personalities or differing opinions, but it’s critical for the success of your nonprofit.

My grandmother paid me a huge compliment by telling me that, and it’s something I will always remember. Dignity is not something to be taken lightly, and I appreciate that those I love believe I deserve it.


Leadership at all Levels

According to Wikipedia (the premier source for information these days), leadership has been described as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.” I happen to love this definition. So often when we think of leadership we think of the president, the CEO, the one in charge. But it’s so important to remember that leadership has so many more dimensions than that.

Here are a few reasons I love the Wikipedia definition.

  • No mention of being in a position of power. Leadership can happen anywhere you are – whether you’re the receptionist or the director. The key is the way you use your relationships and influence. Even as an entry level staff member you can be a leader. If you respect yourself and those around you, everyone will gravitate toward you. And with grace and poise, if you value everyone’s input as you make your own decisions, and demonstrate that you have sound judgment, you are a leader. Leadership happens outside of the workplace as well – it happens in friendships and with family members. When you take the initiative to do the right thing, you are demonstrating your leadership.
  • The end goal is a common task. We often think of leadership on a grand scale – changing policy, mobilizing communities, and affecting change. But leadership doesn’t have to only look like that. It can also be shown in everyday life. It’s simply showing others that it’s easy to do the right thing – that will be enough to affect change. You see leadership when someone gives a stranger their seat on the bus. When someone holds the door open for someone else. It’s these small moments that make up the big picture.
  • No mention of money. Again, leadership does not only happen when you have the ear of many (whether that’s because you have money or otherwise). It happens when you are sensitive to others and serve as a role model of how to live. That can happen on Wall Street or at the corner store. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have – you can be a leader.

This concept really helps me as I move through my career. I have not been in management positions in the workforce but I feel I have vast leadership experience, which has come from working with others and listening to what they have to say. Because a good leader does that first – listen.