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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  1. 1
    sanjay says:

    Thanks, John for sharing such a valuable lessons with us. This is a good start for someone who is leader dealing with many people. Can you please tell us how to do it in day to day life? I always follow these principle though and try not to judge anyone for their disrespectful way towards me.

  2. 2

    Thanks for the great tip. These rules (or, should I say observations?) help toward transparency and enable us to be clear and confident about what we’re doing.

  3. 3
    Rev. Holmes says:

    Thanks for the reminder. Every once in a while we all need a respect reminder.

  4. 4

    I love these because I think everyone can relate to them. It really goes back to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. There would be a lot less misunderstanding and hurt feelings in the world if everyone would follow these rules of respect.

    Thanks for sharing them John!

  5. 5
    Darren Poke says:

    Thanks John for these excellent rules on respect.

    I love the quote at the end as well.

    I have enormous respect for your opinions on leadership and am grateful for the resources that you continue to provide.



  6. 6
    Sooan KIM says:

    Thanks for the great message. It can be the universal rule to anyone who is in the position of leader in any kind of situation. No matter what others do or say, sometimes I feel like to keep my own way to respect myself and others at the same time. It is challenging every time. Your message was really good reminder for me.

  7. 7

    Simple, but powerful. Thanks.

  8. 8
    Agus says:

    Many thanks. Beneficial and good for leader. Evoid misunderstanding and hurt feeling if we follow these rules. God bless you.

  9. 9
    Conor Neill says:

    Simple but powerful. As Bridget mentions it is the details of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. It is valuable to clarify what this look like in practice.

  10. 10
    Jessica Peter says:

    I like the idea. To respect others first and to work hard to earn the respect, even if other people is not working as hard as you. Respect must be earn.

  11. 11
    Cassandre says:

    Awesome! I am a 26 year old Superintendant at my church and I have been for the past 4 years. In addition, I have been a business owner since I was 20. This will help me TREMENDOUSLY! I will also pass this on to the young people around me who are on their way to accomplishing leardership roles. Thank you for sharing!

  12. 12
    Jitmongkol Kuasook says:

    That;s absolute model to carry on for daily life and team sharing.

  13. 13
    adam herod says:

    Really digging this list. Life seems like it would be a whole lot simpler if we all lived by these rules. Guess I’ll have to start that in my world by making sure to make them a part of my life. Good stuff.

  14. 14

    This list highlights how humble service and strong character can establish leadership and respect. Too often people forget to come straight to the person and gossip instead. Gossip displays a lack of character.

    “Knowledge will give you power, but character respect. “- Bruce Lee

    If leaders are to serve their stake holders, they must display the character of constraint. I agree – great post. Thanks John.

  15. 15
    Olayemi Ogunsile Arabome says:

    This is really a good tool not only for leaders but for everyone. If we can keep to this rules, life will be a lot more easier. Thanks for sharing.

  16. 16
    Mekdes says:

    Greetings from Ethiopia. Thanks for the marvelous message.

  17. 17
    Andres says:

    Wow, Thanks John, this is a good article. Change the way i think. This man is a good leader.

  18. 18
    Mekdes Temesgen says:

    Warm Greetings from Ethiopia, really it is amazing message.

  19. 19

    Thanks John! I wish I had these rules earlier in my career as well LOL. As a young leader in anything, it is intimidating to work and lead those that seem to be more experienced.

    These rules are basic and help to give posture which I believe is the one thing that young leaders need as they begin. People follow leaders with posture.

    I think you said it best with the rules set the “relational environment”.

  20. 20

    Respect to me is to remain in a position of empathy. To listen first before you respond to any interation we have with others. Through questions we gain clarity to each others perspective. To get respect have respect first. Listening = Respect.

  21. 21
    mary jane says:

    This is a good one!!! to follow


    Mary Jane Zavala-Padron

  22. 22
    Christy Moosa says:

    Respect is formed when relationship is focused in accordance on the word of God.

    If we love the Lord with all our heart and love our neighbor as ourself, we wouldn’t gossip…

    if when we loved, we would consider others more important than ourself…

    if obedeince were our primary concern, we would allow God’s word to direct us…

    if someone offends you go to that person…

    if you are giving at the altar and remember your brother has something against you stop right then and go to that person….

    If someone does something to you, forgive, if he does something again and says forgive me forgive again….

    All relationship is to be first filtered through God’s word. God always gives me a mirror, what is I need to do? When I respect God and His Word, my relatioships will be healthy.

    As a young leader, respect comes from listening to those older than him also, becasue they have been down the road a time or two.

    I respect my leaders not because they are perfect but they give it their all and if they fail, repent when they are wrong or are the first to say I am sorry when they offend.

    Relationship is a two lane highway and both demand respect, whether at home, at church or in the office.

  23. 23
    Marc Millan says:

    This comes with a great sense of maturity which incredibly the person in your post had at an early age, took me a bit longer to gain that sense of maturity but you are absolutely right.

  24. 24
    Amit says:

    Sir- another very useful lesson. Its always so good to read your articles,books.


  25. 25

    I’m about to enter my third year as pastor in a 106 year old church. More than 50% of the congregation is older than I am. These rules will help me greatly. Just had a deacon tell me Sunday people have been calling him asking questions concerning a decision I made. Now I know how to encourage them to come to me in a mutually respectful relationship.

  26. 26
    Shane says:

    As a young leader of a startup company I can relate to the young man in this example. I often find it a challenge to garner the respect of others.

    I have come up with a few simple rules of my own that have seemed to help me:

    1. Do not let a good job go unnoticed. Show the people that work for you that you appreciate their hard work and think they are doing a good job.
    2. Confront all situations that are related to you, but do so when your emotions are less involved. I think you lose respect if you let anger or disappointment rule the discussion.
    3. Not everyone is going to agree with all your decisions. Listen to their opinions but once you make a decision and it is final, you need to show unwavering support for your decision. This will build confidence and people will respect your decisions more if you stick with them.

  27. 27
    Christopher Kuechmann says:

    I have needed these principles desperately.
    Thanks. They should help me in currently very trying times.

  28. 28
    Yvonne Green says:

    Thank you for sharing this one Everyone could use these rules
    Great principles — the kind that can have an Impact on the World as well

  29. 29

    Thanks John for the reminder.
    For me is RESPECT to cherish people for what or how they are. When you Respect other people, other people Respect you.

    Cor (The Netherlands)

  30. 30
    sonia says:

    love it…

  31. 31
    Mike Barnes says:

    …. Respect is a beautiful two way street!

  32. 32
    Yorch Vázquez Aldana says:

    Great tips, ihave read several times a book of Miguel Ruiz name “Four Agreements” based on the ancient Toltec wisdom
    1.- Be impeccable with your word
    2.- Don’t take anything personally
    3.- Don’t make assumptions
    4.- Always do your best

    This agreements help you to have a pleasant life living in respect with yourself and others arround you

    I any is interesting i leave the link just as a coute of what i am saying

    Thank you Mr Maxwell i’ll be llokking forward to have more valuable information from you

  33. 33
    Fatima Azzahra AMRANI says:

    Thank you for the article, I think that by respecting ourselves and others we deserve to be respected.

  34. 34
    dhes Guevarra says:

    BRAVO. Every human being should know this rules

  35. 35
    Revd. Decency says:

    Our heath jagons says; sanita sanitatis omini sanitas which implies that the health of one man is the health of another. In other words, respect is reciprocal. Thank you Max. for updating my knowledge which gives power and character which which attracts respect. Shallom!

  36. 36

    Great lesson on respect. I’ve found that the more I respect others the more I can learn from them also.

  37. 37
    Elan Govindasamy says:

    A very practical lesson on respect. Always a joy to read your books and articles.

  38. 38

    thank you for motivation

  39. 39
    Lucia Diaz says:

    the 1st semester that i started working as a college instructor, i was only 25 years old and one of the doctors on staff made a comment about me and said “Lucia is too young for good ideas.” after four years of working at the college i am now in charged of training people with more than 15 years experience in the field, including that doctor’s staff. God is good. My good ideas are the ones that that run the show now.
    Well, i should’t take the credit, having great leaders like John made all the difference.

  40. 40
    Beth Merchant says:

    Great article. Reminds me what boundaries have to be set. Respect is so hard to recover once it is lost. Thanks John!

  41. 41
    Kevin says:

    Wise words – as usual – thanks John

  42. 42
    Jo Wood says:

    My daughter, an HR manager, is posting this on all the bulletin boards in her building. Thanks once again.

  43. 43

    Thank you, took it to heart

  44. 44
    Tina says:

    This is said so crystal clear and explains what I feek so well….I will be passing this one on for sure. Thank you for sharing!

  45. 45
    Kimberly says:

    Outstanding. I do believe I’ll follow suit and post this to my blog as well. This is quite a powerful message everyone could benefit from. Praise God!

  46. 46

    What a great list! I especially like #7; it’s the one I find most people have trouble with, followed closely by numbers 5 & 9. Basic respect and honesty go a LONG way. Thanks for sharing.

  47. 47
    Erik Ramey says:

    I began my current job at the age of 23. In the organization I was helping run, I ran into lots of people I was hiring that had more experience doing what I was doing. I found a lot of people didn’t respect me because I looked like I was straight out of high school therefore, I would have no clue how to do anything in terms of leadership. This article really spoke to me because these were things I learned and had to demonstrate in order to actually be an effective leader. Thanks for sharing! It gives me hope that there are other young leaders just like me out there working hard.

  48. 48

    What a timely and great list! Thanks so much for sharing it…

  49. 49

    WOW! Thank you so much for these words of wisdom from the Lord We will post them in our church Amen Bishop Thanks

  50. 50
  51. 51

    Awesome list! Thanks John for passing it on. It reminds me of an earlier Injoy Life Club lesson you did years ago.

  52. 52
    Michael says:

    Thanks for the unending wisdom.

    From Egypt


  53. 53
    carolyn stephens says:

    I garnish the statements of the 23 year old!!!

  54. 54
    Blake says:

    I met you once face to face. YOu spent a few minutes with me signing my book and asked about me. The moment left a powerful impact. It has set the qulaity standard for every person I meet who thinks they are someone.

    You talk much about lessons from early in your life. I’m curious what are you learning now that’s new to keep growing forward.

  55. 55
    Sam Oyewo says:

    Thanks John for this wonderful insight. This will no doubt create mutual respect and quench fire of gossips.

  56. 56
    John Zehr says:

    Thank you, John.

  57. 57

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  58. 58

    What is the name of the pastor who came up with the rules?

  59. 59

    How different our world would be if we all practiced this.

  60. 60
    Jacob says:

    Respect is something that requires humility which is not something that is valued in today’s society.

  61. 61

    I am a senior manager and leader of some that are nearly twice my age. What you’ve shared is very practical and insightful. Thank you John.
    What I’ve experienced in leading others older than me is to respect their years of experience; seek their opinions and suggestions. Thanks again.

  62. 62
    Randy says:

    When you read this it seems so simple and who would disagree? Yet most of us dont follow these simple yet powerful rules. Inspireing to see someone so young get it. Thank you for sharing.

  63. 63
    Barb Giglio says:

    Just shared this with my 21 year old daughter who starts her junior year in college tomorrow. As always you post the best advice and always right on time. Thank you and God bless you! :)

  64. 64

    […] does respect mean to […]

  65. 65
    Bemsi says:

    Great message on respect!!!! Thanks, Dr Maxwell, for such an inspirational message!!!

  66. 66
    Xolani Makhwasa says:

    I have been helped in many ways by this story, I pray that God keep you alive till we meet face to face John.

  67. 67
    Uche says:

    A friend shared this awesome article and advised that I print the 10 rules and set em on my refrigerator. Well, I’ll be hanging em on top of the TV instead ((:

  68. 68

    Respect is not gain through a piece of paper or a position.

    Respect is gain simply because you show Respect towards other.

    The logic of Respect is simple but difficult to apply.