You’ll never have to earn God’s favor. God loves you and is pleased with you completely because of grace and not because of your performance. People, on the other hand, are a little different. If you want to lead people, you must establish credibility and earn the respect and the right to lead them.
Leadership is influence. The way you can tell you’re a leader is to look over your shoulder. If somebody’s following, then you’re the leader. If nobody’s following, you’re not the leader. The moment you have to say to the people in your ministry, “I’m the leader!” you are no longer the leader. Leadership is something that is earned. You earn the right to lead through six character qualities in your life.
1 Timothy 3:1, 7 says, “If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task… He also must have a good reputation with outsiders so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.”
If you set your heart on being an overseer, that’s a good ambition. It’s okay to have an ambition to be a leader. But if you’re going to be leader, you’ve got to have a good reputation. The key to a good reputation can be summed up in the word “character” – your inner attitudes, your values, and your actions. There’s a difference between reputation and character. Reputation is what people think you are. Character is what you actually are. D.L. Moody said, “Character is what you are in the dark.” Character is what you are when nobody’s around. Character is what you have left when you’ve lost your reputation. It’s what’s left over. The key to a good reputation is having good character. The problem is, we’re more concerned about image than character.
If leadership is influence, then influence is earned by respect. If you don’t have the respect of people, you’re not a leader. There are six character qualities, all in Proverbs that establish the respect we need to lead.
We earn respect through integrity.
If you don’t have integrity, it’s not real success; it’s phony success. Proverbs 10:9 says, “The man of integrity walks securely. He who takes crooked paths will be found out.” One of the benefits of walking in integrity is confidence because you have nothing to hide. Confidence comes from having no fear of being found out.
We earn respect through humility.
Proverbs 29:23 (Good News) “Arrogance will bring your downfall but if you’re humble, you will be respected.” The Bible also says, “Clothe yourselves in humility”. If you want to dress for success, that’s a good way to dress. Just about the time I think I’ve got it all together, God pulls the rug out from under me. It’s no problem at all for God to humble you. You can either humble yourself or He will humiliate you. Those are the options.
I remember hearing about a school principal one time who made a major mistake and everybody in the school knew about it. He thought, “I’m not going to apologize to everybody. I’d be embarrassed and go down in the kids’ eyes.” Then he changed his mind. So he spoke over the intercom to the entire school and said, “I made a mistake and I apologize. I want to ask this whole school to forgive me for this decision.” He became the most honored principal of that school, simply because the teachers and the kids were so unused to having someone admit it when they were wrong. The kids went up to him saying, “I just wish I had a father like you. I wish I had a dad who could admit it when he was wrong.” The Bible says, “Before honor is humility.” So, when we admit we’re wrong, rather than being downgraded in people’s eyes, we’re raised in people’s eyes.
We earn respect through dependability.
We admire people who can be counted on, people who are reliable, who are trustworthy. Proverbs 25:15 says, “Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of gifts he does not give.” Have you ever met anybody like that? Always promising the moon but delivering nothing. Always saying they’re going to help you in the ministry but they don’t. They’re always long on promises but short on performance. Napoleon once said, “Promise everything, deliver nothing.” He could have been a politician. That’s not the way to live.
We earn respect by living by right priorities.
Respect is earned through living by priority. Proverbs 11:27 says, “If your goals are good you’ll be respected.” Proverbs 14:22 in the Good News translation says, “You will earn the trust and respect of others if you work for good.” If you want to be a leader, have good goals. If your goals are respected and your goals are good, you will be respected. The average American will live 25,550 days. How you invest that time is totally up to you. You can waste it, you can spend it, and you can invest it. But you’ve got to have worthy goals.
We earn respect through generosity.
Proverbs 11:16 declares, “He who gives generously to the needy and shows kindness will be powerful and respected.” The fact of life is, no one is ever honored for what they’ve received. They always are honored for what they give. We’re never honored for what we keep, what we get, but what we give away.
Andrew Carnegie once wrote down some goals and when he died they found them in his desk: “I’m going to spend the first half of my life making all the money that I can and I’m going to spend the second half of my life giving it all away.” And he did. As a result, his name is still known years and years later. Generations later.
There’s only one problem with that philosophy. Nobody knows when they’re going to die. How are you going to know when to start giving away? How does he know when he’s at the half way point? Do your given’ while you’re livin’ then you’re knowin’ where it’s goin’. When it comes to giving, some people stop at nothing.
We earn respect through spirituality.
You earn respect by making God the priority in your life and getting close to Him. Proverbs 3:4-6 (Living Bible) “If you want favor with God and man and a reputation for good judgment and common sense, then trust the Lord completely. In everything you do put God first and He will direct you and crown your efforts with success.” Notice it says, “If you want favor with man as well as with God…” When you put God first in your life, it not only gives you favor with God but it gives you favor with man. People are drawn to those who naturally love the Lord, those who are naturally in love with Jesus Christ.
These are the six areas that produce respect. We earn respect through integrity, humility, generosity, spirituality, dependability, and living by priority. These are the issues. Twenty years from now what are people going to remember about you? Leadership is influence, but you cannot lead without these issues. They are the basis to build respect. When you have the respect of people, people will follow you anywhere.