Respect and Open-Mindedness: Leadership Traits That Stand the Test of Time

by Barbara L. Watters, Ph.D. published Nov 10, 2017 09:44 AM, last modified Sep 08, 2020 02:15 PM
by Paul Obidinski, J.D.


Over the past 20 or so years, I have had the good fortune of serving in many professional capacities.  I have worked as an attorney in private practice, have held numerous executive roles in the corporate space (primarily in Ethics, Compliance and Human Resources), and, most recently, I formed my own Athlete Management and Consulting Business.  In 2016, I very much welcomed the opportunity to teach in the Penn State Master of Professional Studies (MPS) program.  I look forward to continuing to teach and making further contributions to the MPS program as we move into 2018.

My background is less research-based in a traditional academic sense than the backgrounds of some of my colleagues who teach in the MPS program.  However, while teaching in the program, I have been able to study many research-based perspectives and apply such perspectives to practical scenarios I have either encountered personally in the corporate world or that may be ripe to occur given corporate culture and business operational models.  My goal, in turn, is to integrate research with practical real-world examples and to assist students in navigating through scenarios that they may be apt to encounter as they move forward with their respective professional careers.

In my judgment, there are many compelling, yet contrasting, research-based perspectives.  Whether you subscribe most closely to principles of deontology or teleology, or tend to analyze where one may fall within Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development (Northouse, 2016), there is much that can be gleaned from each perspective.  While I don’t profess to know everything about leadership and what makes a successful leader (and I like to tell my students that no one knows everything and there is always more to learn at any stage of life), I think - in reflecting upon my business career to date - there are fundamentally at least two leadership traits that are of paramount importance and that stand the test of time – respect and open-mindedness.

We all come from different backgrounds and inherently have different personality traits and beliefs (Northouse, 2016).  On many occasions – and perhaps more often than not – we may disagree with the positions of others.  However, for a leader to effectively lead, he or she must afford others the opportunity to share views and take the time to understand and respect those views.  This does not mean that the leader needs to implement a solution aligned with any one particular person’s view but merely hearing and affording the opportunity to be heard truly goes a long way toward effective leadership.  Additionally – while listening to, and genuinely respecting the views of, others – leaders can perpetually learn more themselves and thus, by being open-minded, may learn something that allows for an overall better course of action for all involved.  While I have not lived in every historical era – it’s my belief that – whether you lived in a world with little technology 200 years ago or our current fast paced society – these fundamentals have applied and will apply when it comes to the effectiveness of leaders.

Does this seem obvious?  Probably – but, when you’re sitting in a boardroom or on a conference call – and there are stressors and corporate politics that may be at play – I always encourage people to take a moment, pause, and to not forget the fundamentals of respect and open-mindedness – as such traits can transform an organization into one that feels like, and operates as, a true team.


Northouse, P.G. (2016) Leadership: Theory and practice (7th Ed). Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage Publications, Inc. 

Paul Obidinski, J.D. earned a B.S. in Psychology from Penn State, and a J.D. from the University of Buffalo School of Law.  He serves as President and Principal Owner of ETS Management Solutions, LLC (“ETS”).  ETS stands for “Ethics + Teamwork = Success” and it is this formula that the company follows in building out a client base and in planning for/managing client careers.  ETS represents professional athletes – with a focus on professional baseball and golf – in connection with employment contracts, marketing, post-career planning services and any other assistance unique to client needs.  The company also represents small business clients in connection with organizational design efforts, recruiting, policy and procedure development and business operations.