R.E.S.P.E.C.T… What does it mean to you?

A few years ago, I read an article about a young man who, at age 23, went to work as the senior pastor of his first church. He found the experience very intimidating because he was to be the spiritual leader of people who had children and grandchildren older than he was.

How did he handle it? By showing his people respect and asking them to treat them in kind. To make his standard clear to everyone, he shared ten rules for respect that he promised to live by, and he asked his people to do the same.

Here are his rules:

  1. If you have a problem with me, come to me (privately).
  2. If I have a problem with you, I’ll come to you (privately).
  3. If someone has a problem with me and comes to you, send them to me. (I’ll do the same for you.)
  4. If someone consistently will not come to me, say, “Let’s go see him together.” (I’ll do the same for you.)
  5. Be careful how you interpret me. On matters that are unclear, do not feel pressured to interpret my feelings or thoughts. It is easy to misinterpret intentions.
  6. I will be careful how I interpret you.
  7. If it’s confidential, don’t tell. If anyone comes to me in confidence, I won’t tell unless (a) the person is going to harm him/herself; (b) the person is going to physically harm someone else; (c) a child has been physically or sexually abused. I expect the same from you.
  8. I do not read unsigned letters or notes.
  9. I do not manipulate; I will not be manipulated. Do not let others manipulate you; do not let others try to manipulate me through you.
  10. When in doubt, just say it. If I can answer without misrepresenting something or breaking a confidence, I will.

His story intrigued me because I had faced a similar situation early in my career. The young pastor’s list reflected what I’d learned in my own experience.

Most people greatly desire the respect of their leaders. And when leaders give it freely, I believe it creates a very positive relational environment. As author Alfred Glasow said, “The respect of those you respect is worth more than the applause of the multitude.”

UPDATE: Many have asked who was the young author of the Rules of Respect in this post, adapted from my book Ethics 101. He is Charles Christian, who is still serving as a pastor in Washington. The article containing his rules was originally published in Leadership Magazine in 1999.

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