Back in the dotcom 1.0 days when I was working at an online loyalty company called Netcentives, I was introduced to an influential Chilean businessman by the name of Sebastian Piñera. As it turned out, I was heading to South America in the near future, so Sebastian recommended I come to Chile to meet LAN Chile Airlines, of which he was a board member and co-owner (airlines were strategic partners of Netcentives).

I arrived in Santiago and met with the airline as well as Sebastian. I was awestruck as I saw the myriad of photos of him with influential politicians and news-makers throughout the world. Despite his power and influence, he was kind and gracious to me, taking me on a personal tour of the city of Santiago, explaining the history of the city and nation. I knew Sebastian was an influential citizen of Chile, as he was a Congressman at the time. But I was intrigued to read today that he is now running for president of Chile in the 2009 election. He won support among voters with his call for improved education, streamlined bureaucracy and greater emphasis on industrializing the economy. He promised to create a million new jobs. Chileans will return to the polls for a final run-off election on January 17, 2010.

One of my firm beliefs in business (and life in general) is that you should treat all people with respect and dignity, whether competitor, associate, client or colleague.  You might not agree with others, or even like them, but I have found that an ounce of respect and dignity goes a very long way.  Sebastian treated me as if I were a diplomat, despite the fact that I was a business development grunt back.  That ounce of respect has lasted years.  I hope I have paid that honor forward.  Even if I’m not a diplomat… or presidential candidate.