No matter what you decide as a leader, some will like it and some will not. Leaders make decisions; that’s what leaders do.

But how do you maintain respect when making unpopular decisions that you perceive need to be made? Dan Rockwell has some good advice for all of us.

Originally posted by Dan Rockwell

Be Respected While Making Unpopular Decisions

Indecisive leaders drive people crazy. “My boss won’t make a decision!” But, unpopular decisions have negative backlash. “The boss doesn’t care what I think.”

It’s “Solution Saturday,” Richard suggest we discuss:

“Doing unpopular things and being even more respected for it.”

It doesn’t matter what you do or say, if people don’t respect you. Being liked is nice; being respected essential.


The way you make unpopular decisions is as important as the decisions themselves. I can respect you, even if I don’t like you.

Respect is about character and relationship, not decisions.


  1. Adopt a relaxed, gentle, welcoming demeanor. Breathe deep. Smile. Gentle eye-contact.
  2. Be a learn-it-all, not a know-it-all.
  3. Lower the volume and soften the tone of your voice.
  4. Reject the trappings of position and authority. When you pull rank, they close down.
  5. Include others as early and often as possible.

The deeper issue leaders face is building relationships before unpopular decisions are made.


  1. Share information prolifically. Secrets lead to fear and manipulation.
  2. When you can’t share information, explain why.
  3. Answer public concerns quickly, directly, and publicly.


  1. Apologize when you exclude or walk on others. Don’t say, “I didn’t mean to.”
  2. Confess mistakes. Doing your best is not an excuse. We already know you’re doing your best. Try:
    • I’m sorry.
    • I screwed up.
    • I apologize.
    • I was wrong. Please forgive me. (This option is for the truly courageous.)
  3. Commit to what’s best for the organization, even if it hurts.


  1. Confront the brutal facts with kindness. Pretending invites disrespect.
  2. Reflect on past performance. Avoid behaviors that didn’t work.
  3. Adopt behaviors that worked in the past.
  4. Pursue outside perspectives. You get more of the same, if you do more of the same.
  5. Diffuse resistance:
    • Maintain openness regarding methods.
    • Open up, rather than pushing back.
    • Walk while talking.
    • Breathe.
    • Ask questions.
    • Accept how people feel.

How might leaders be even more respected while doing unpopular things?