Leadership Etiquette

woman leading work meeting
A good leader respects those who follow. Portra Images/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Are you in a leadership position at work, on a committee, or among friends? If so, you probably have some skills and traits that people look up to. Maybe you're a role model or simply someone who always follows through on commitments.

Whether you are a corporate executive, floor supervisor, or leader of a social club, proper etiquette is essential if you want to continue to be respected and followed. The key to being a successful leader is to take the focus off yourself and turn it to the people you are counting on to work with you.

Professional Appearance

The old saying, "You only have one chance to make a good first impression," is true. Dress for the position you hold. Make sure you are well groomed at all times and avoid wearing anything too flashy. If you aren't sure that an article of clothing or piece of jewelry is appropriate, it probably isn't. Save it for some other time.

Be Prepared

When you are conducting a meeting, be prepared with an agenda and back up information. No one wants to waste time while you thumb through your stack of paperwork during the presentation. Research the topic so you can have answers to likely questions.

Be Courteous

The people you are leading look up to you and are likely to mimic your style. You should always be polite and kind to everyone, from the members of your group to those you are serving. You don't have to be best friends with anyone, but they should feel comfortable discussing whatever is needed to get the job done.

Respect Time

Show respect for other people's time by never being late. When you walk in a half hour after the agreed upon time for a meeting, you risk losing the respect of your team because they'll feel that you don't appreciate them. Showing up on time lets others know that you respect them, which in turn will bring you the respect you need for your position.

Personal Space

Don't crowd anyone on your team. Everyone appreciates having adequate personal space, and it's nearly impossible to do a job with someone hovering too closely. Giving ample room shows the people you work with that you trust them to do their work.


Get to know the people on your team by making conversation. When people feel that you like them for who they are outside of work, they're more likely to feel more of a part of the team. If you aren't sure what to say, practice making small talk with friends outside of your leadership role and have a few conversation starters in mind.

Undivided Attention

When you are responsible for a group of people on any kind of task, you'll garner more respect if you give them your undivided attention. You need to listen to their opinions, and even if you don't agree with them, thank them for their input.

Conflict Resolution

When you have a group of people on the same task, you are extremely likely to have differences of opinion. Give each side an opportunity to present their case and discuss how they came to their conclusion. Try to find a compromise. If you wind up making a decision that isn't popular, let the others know that you are responsible for the results in an unassuming and non-threatening manner. If you make an error in judgment or do something that brings a negative result, be prepared to offer a sincere apology and learn from your mistake.


Leaders need to have discretion in all matters from above and below on the corporate personnel chart. If you are privy to a company secret, don't be the one who leaks the information. When your team has a heated discussion, keep it among those who are present. Your boss doesn't need to know that you had a near knockdown fight while working on the project. Others will trust you more if you exercise discretion.


A good leader should use proper grammar or risk losing the respect of others. This includes meeting presentations, phone chats, email, text, and other forms of communication. It's also a good idea to avoid the use of email and text emoticons in most cases.


You need to provide feedback in both directions – to your team and to those who have trusted you with this leadership position. That doesn't mean you should share the nitty-gritty details. The information should be matter-of-fact and to the point, as it relates to the job.

Give Credit

When someone goes beyond what is required or spends extra hours on a task, acknowledge his or her commitment to the job. Send an email to the person and copy it to your supervisor. The team member will appreciate it and respect you all the more for not trying to take credit for her idea or something she accomplished.