Aretha Franklin might have made the word respect popular but it had been around well before she came on the scene. As the song suggests, respect is something that everybody craves and longs for, something that people will go at great lengths to get. Often people try to get respect by putting others in their place or by demanding it from others. Some try to get respect by proving their worth and their strength. Perhaps there might be another way.
In his book, The 21 Most Powerful Minutes in a Leader’s Day, John Maxwell states that respect has more to do with leadership than any other thing. It’s not about position, title or gender. It’s not about power, prestige, or money. It’s about leadership. “…people naturally follow leaders who are stronger than themselves. That means you can’t get people to follow you by applying pressure to them. Instead you must apply it to yourself” (Maxwell, 116). But that is only part of it. The other component of respect is about how you lead others.
Maxwell suggests that we follow this pattern with everyone that we wish to gain respect with:
* Cultivate a positive relationship. Extend yourself to them, initiating the relationship. Get to know them as individuals. Find common ground and develop rapport.
* Help them be more productive. Nothing boosts a relationship like a mutual win. Help them with encouragement, empowerment, resources- whatever it takes. You’ll be helping yourself, them and your organization (relationship, business, church, country, world, etc)
* Develop their potential. It’s one thing to help people for your sake. It’s another to help them for their own sake. Help people to become the individuals God desires them to be, even if it doesn’t benefit you personally.
What I appreciate about Maxwell’s approach is the other-focused emphasis. In our society and world that is so me-focused, it is refreshing to hear someone say that influence and respect is based on how we positively relate with and develop others. I know that sometimes this can be a challenge, especially when our own needs are being ignored and neglected. But I want to believe that as we pay more attention and sow into the lives of other people that eventually, they will begin to sow back into ours as a result of the respect that has been built.