Commanding respect is a worthy goal for church leaders. But you can’t demand respect. Instead, your followers must freely give it to you. You can only command and earn respect; you can’t demand it.
Not commanding respect may be frustrating at times. This is especially true for young leaders who may perceive this as an attack or personal affront. They often respond by demanding respect, mostly based on the fact they have a certain position. (“I’m the small-group coordinator, so I make the decisions, not you.”) That’s completely understandable, but it’s also a sign of immature leadership.
Commanding respect from followers takes time and effort. But it’s well worth the investment! Once you’ve gained people’s trust and respect, leading them becomes much easier.
What’s required for commanding respect? I’ve found that living out this Bible passage day-by-day makes a big difference:
“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4, NKJV)
5 Lessons for Commanding Respect
From that Bible passage, here are five important leadership lessons:
1. Be honest.
Don’t use manipulation or conceit to get your way. Be open and honest about where you want to go and try to persuade people to come with you based on vision, not deceit or force. Don’t play out people against each other, make them choose sides or spiritually manipulate people to support you. Be very, very critical of your own ambitions and constantly search your heart to check your motives (Psalm 139:23-24).
2. Be humble.
Don’t ever forget that you are a leader by the grace of God. It has God who deserves all the glory, you’re just a vessel in His hands. Treat your leadership as a gift, not an entitlement. The minute you feel you deserve certain things because of your leadership role, is the minute you’ve become proud.
3. Admit your failures.
You may feel this is a sign of weakness, but it’s actually a sign of strength. Having the courage to admit your mistakes honestly or to say you were wrong and change your mind is a great way of gaining your followers’ trust. They see you’re not pretending to be perfect or better than them, not covering up your mistakes and that will go a long way in making them respect you.