By John Langhorne / Guest Editorial

In my last column, we examined the nature of attitudes in some depth, learning they are a mix of cognitions and emotions and mostly learned. In the introduction, I cited a meeting where attitudes surfaced as the No. 1 motivator. However, the same process also identified relationships as an equally powerful motivator.

Whereas attitudes are mostly about what goes on in your head and your heart, relationships are equally as much about the organizations that surround you and either support and enhance or degrade your personal well-being. All parents of teenagers are intimately familiar with the peer group and its power. I recall sitting in a high school orchestra concert marveling at the quality of the music and the light bulb went on in my head. When our daughter was in the fourth grade her mother said, “you are going to be in the orchestra, choose any stringed instrument.” With this decision, she choose our child’s peer group. This is an excellent example of why you should cultivate a relationship with your child’s teacher-librarian.

These links with other people define our social context. Perhaps the most important of these is to choose your parents with some care. Of course this is impossible, but great parents make getting a fine start at the business of living much easier and, jumping from the specific to the global, our parents chose our country. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to live in a country such as North Korea. I understand that the best predictor of a country’s social advantage is defined by how it treats women. I can make quite a list of places where I would not want any child to grow up. In this matter, as parents we do have choice, consider the ongoing conversations regarding immigration and emigration. In a recent Wall Street Journal article by a Frenchman, he suggested that if more of his countrymen and women emigrated and then returned to France at some future time, in might help France learn how other countries are successful.

We live in a web of organizations, and we are connected to these organizations by relationships. Most of these relationships are essentially binary, they are one-on-ones with others. The answer to the perennial question, “what is more important in the world of work, who you know or what you know?” is “yes.” Most of our opportunities result from information shared through these relationships. Organizations consist of sets of relationships, both formal and informal. Do this thought experiment: who are the people in your organization who can help you succeed or make you fail? This is your most important network in the particular organization you choose.

Thinking realistically about our social context, it can be parsed into four major relationships: partners, friends, colleagues and bosses. These exist in the organizational context of families, jobs, social and business organizations of many types. Some of these are formal, as the job, family, school, and some are more informal such as your neighborhood, dinner group or softball team.

“Respect is the lubricant that makes relationships work.”

Paraphrasing Peter Drucker: Respect is the lubricant that makes these relationships effective.

Psychologists note that human behavior is highly reciprocal, what you give is what you get. The application here is that it is optimal behavior for each of us to treat others, no matter who and where they are, with respect. Over the years, I have come to believe in “cosmic karma.” That being, if you practice this principle you are likely to have a good life and if who do not, you are much less likely to have a good life. Remember, at some time in your life, you will cease to plan for the future and instead spend time reviewing your life. At this time, it is better if what you see is satisfactory to your basic principles.

Most of us can accept the idea that the major product of respect is trust. Trusting ourselves, our relationships and our organizations is what make societies functional. Certainly there are numerous examples, in today’s newspaper, on both sides of this principle.

I find it interesting that as we review these basic aspects of human agency, attitudes, relationships, organizations and trust, we are examining the foundation for management, leadership and good living.


John Langhorne is with Langhorne Associates. He can be reached at His new e-book, “Beyond IQ: Practical Steps to Find the Best You,” is available at