The 7th law of leadership according to John Maxwell is the law of respect, which states that people naturally follow leaders who are stronger than themselves.


What that means is people don’t follow others for random reasons, but they follow those whose leadership for some reason or other they think highly of. To put it more simply the less skilled and gifted follow the more highly skilled and gifted out of respect for them. When we use the word respect we mean they place them in greater honour and esteem.

How do leaders gain the respect of others? This comes from a combination of the following 6 factors:

1. Natural leadership ability.

Some people are born with greater skills and ability to lead than others. When I was in junior school this was measured by the ability to play football. Those who could play the best almost always led the rest of us. When picking teams I was invariably the last to be chosen because I lacked any natural ability to play football! Fortunately for me leadership can be developed through the law of the lid and the law of process. Also it is important to remember that natural leadership ability is of itself insufficient to develop your leadership potential.

2. Respect for others.

The weaker a leader is, the more they will rely on their status or even violence and intimidation to get people to do what they want. However, good leaders realise that all leadership is ultimately voluntary. You might be able to buy somebody’s hands to get a job done, but you cannot in the long run buy their heart. It is by showing respect for others, especially those who are in a lower position, that you gain respect from others. I know of a senior leader whose wife is his secretary. Many people who want to contact him have to first deal with her and do not know that they are married to each other. The feedback he gets from his wife as to how they treat her is very helpful for him when assessing what their true nature is.
According to Maxwell, gaining respect from others follows a certain pattern:

When people respect you as a person, they admire you.
When they respect you as a friend, they love you.
When they respect you as a leader, they follow you.

3. Courage.

To be a leader you have to be willing to step out and go it alone, even at the risk of failure, in the face of great danger and relentless criticism. Kiran Bedi was given the task of senior leadership positions in the Indian Police Service from 1972 to 2007. Being a women she had the challenge of gaining respect from a largely male police force. The turning point came when she was called out to deal with a burning house in Delhi. She took charge by dousing herself with water and going into the burning house to rescue one of those inside. Following her actions, all the other police officers followed suit to rescue those remaining inside. From that point on she was able to command the respect of her police officers, who gave her the title ‘Madam Sir’.

4. Success.

People who have accomplished something naturally command respect. We want to follow those who have a proven track record  because we too want to be part of something that is successful. It is important that we think through carefully what success means to us personally. The first half of one of my favourite definitions of success is having the respect of those who are closest to me. If my family (who know me the best) and my closest co-workers (who work with me regularly) have respect for me then I can be confident that I am successful and my leadership will in turn be effective.

5. Loyalty.

In an age where whoever pays the most is the one who gets my time and attention, the ability to stick with a team until the job gets done is an attractive attribute. This willingness to stick with others even through the tough times is widely admired by others.

6. Value added to others.

We talked more about this in the law of addition. When I add value to others then that earns respect from others.


How does the law of respect apply to your life? What questions does it raise for you?

It would be great to have your thoughts and comments below.