Written by Nonye Nwuke
On the scale of leadership people that are 9s and 10s don’t follow a 7. That’s just the way leadership works. That is the secret of the Law of Respect.
Welcome to the 7th Law of Respect by John Maxwell.
Again Maxwell begins this chapter with a story revolving around a very unimpressive-looking and uneducated woman by the name of Harriet Tubman whose leadership lies in the hundreds of slaves freed at her hand. By her mid-thirties Harriet had been titled ‘Moses’ for her bravery and zeal for the rescuing slaves. Harriet had been born into slavery and once married to John Tubman she began to dream of escaping to freedom in the North. After his rejection of her ideas, her zeal never wavered. She left Tubman, made her way to Philadelphia, vowing to return to her farmland in Maryland to bring her family out of slavery.
Maxwell writes about how her leadership ethics affected those around her. Her fearless attitude, bravery and strength of steel influenced the slaves she guided. She would often tell a fainthearted slave, “Dead folks tell no tales,” and hold them at gunpoint saying, “You go on or die!” to prevent her from being exposed. The $12000 bounty on her head did not discourage her as she pulled hundreds out of slavery before the start of the Civil War.
Harriet’s reputation and influence commanded respect, not just amongst those slaves whose dreams became reality. She was sought out by influential Northerners and spoke at various rallies. She was referred to as “General Tubman” by John Brown, who was a famed revolutionary abolitionist. To him, she was “a better officer than most whom he had seen, and could command an army as successfully as she had led her small parties of fugitives.” This is what Maxwell refers to as the essence of the Law of Respect.
Maxwell emphasises that people naturally follow leaders stronger than themselves. And that is what makes Harriet Tubman an incredible leader despite the odds stacked against her.
When someone respects someone as a person, they admire her. When they respect her as a friend, they love her. When they respect her as a leader, they follow her. This is why everyone that came in contact with Harriet recognised her strong leadership ability and felt compelled to follow her.
So what is the Law of Respect?
Maxwell gives us a scenario that describes how people only follow individuals whose leadership they respect. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the strongest, someone that is an 8 in leadership will not seek out a 6 to follow but would rather follow a 9 or 10. He states that the more leadership ability a person has, the more quickly he recognises leadership -or its lack- in others. In general, followers are attracted to people that are better leaders than themselves. That is what makes up the Law of Respect.
Maxwell recommends that the next time people get together as a group, take a look at what happens.
The leaders will immediately take charge as interaction continues. Each chooses the direction they desire to head to and who they want to take with them. At first, people may make tentative moves in several directions but as time passes, the strongest leaders are recognised and followed. Maxwell gives an example of a basket baller by the name of Walton. who joined Coach John wooden’s UCLA team. Walton wore a beard. His coach had told him his players were not allowed to have facial hair, but when Walton attempted to assert his independence, Wooden only had to say “We’ll miss you” and the beard was long gone.
In summary, the greatest test of respect comes when a leader creates a major change in an organisation. Maxwell realised this because he experienced it as well when he moved his company from San Diego to Atlanta. It was a success as 100% of his panel agreed. He knows this because he “invested a lot of time and energy in his relationships with them, adding value to their lives.” He understands that if he had been a weaker leader, it might not have happened. However he had spent his whole life honing those skills.
Being a leader takes respect. Are you respected in your community?
That is the secret of the Law of Respect.