Respect is a big deal to me. I am so blessed to have a wife who has always affirmed her respect for me. I can’t begin to tell you how life-giving that has been. Through the years as a pastor, the most consistent message I have given to wives is this…”Your husband can do without a lot of things, but the ONE thing he cannot do without is RESPECT.” It’s not just true in marriage, it is also true in leadership.
If you want to crush a leader’s spirit just let them know that you don’t respect him.
But the flip side of this issue is that we must live and lead in such a way that we warrant respect. This week I had 2 separate conversations with people in ministry. If I had to use one phrase to describe the frustrations and cynicism they were feeling, it would be the phrase “lack of respect”. Both people had come to the place where they were having trouble respecting their leader.
The two people I talked with are not newbies to church life… they do not naively put their pastor up on a pedestal. Nor do they expect their pastor to be perfect. But they do expect him exemplify the character and heart of a shepherd.
I want those who know me best to respect me most. Would the people who know me best (wife, kids, friends, church staff) have the most respect for me? I authentically desire that those who have a front row seat to my life can respect the way I live and lead. I started thinking about this issue of respect for those of us who lead in ministry and I’ve identified 3 Respect Busters.
The people closest to us hear us the most. They get an up close and personal view of our day to day life. They see it when we are inconsistent, when we “fudge” on the truth, and when we exaggerate the facts. I have found in my own life as a pastor, that it is so hard not to make things sound better than they actually are. And, it is a constant temptation to inflate your attendance numbers. Dishonesty is a “slippery slope” and we need to treat it with severity in our lives. Tell those you lead that you desire to have complete integrity as a leader. Then ask for their help… and if at any time they see you being dishonest you want them to come to you. And, be quick to confess and apologize when dishonesty is spotted.
James 3:16 says “For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every kind of evil.” Where there is selfish ambition (ego), you WILL find disorder and every kind of evil. Those words are so true. But selfish ambition is so seductive. It strokes our pride and fuels our ego, and it makes us feel significant. But it can be poison to our souls and to our leadership. As James says, it will bring disorder and dysfunction. When I stop being a “servant leader” and it is always about “me”, the people I lead will soon begin to lose respect. And though we can cloak our ambition in kingdom language, the people closest to us will sniff it out. If you really want to get “gutsy” with this one, go to a couple of trusted friends and ask them to serve as an “ego patrol” in your life.
3. Mistreatment of people.
One of the quickest ways for you to lose the respect of those you lead, is to have a utilitarian attitude towards people. They become positions rather than people. They are key leaders, influencers, giving units, potential volunteers, and part of your network rather than Phil, Julie or Dave. Do you see the difference? In one paradigm, people are viewed and valued according to what they can contribute to our organizational goals. In the other paradigm, people are viewed and valued first as individuals who have inherent value apart from what they contribute. I love how Jesus always modeled treating people with dignity and personal care. He was interested in them as individuals and demonstrated a high degree of personal care. He never seemed to be in “recruiting” mode. I know that when I see a pastor who genuinely cares for and loves his congregation, my respect for that pastor increases.
Before you leave this article, I want to give you a challenge. Which one of these 3 Respect Busters is the one that you need to work on? It might be a good idea to keep that on the radar and commit to really work on it over this next month.