The Law of Respect

People naturally follow leaders who are stronger than themselves.  — John C. Maxwell
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Reflections on John C. Maxwell’s “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”

On May 2nd, 1980, Candy Lightner was a single mom of two twin girls and a son. Their life in California was about as typical as any life could be, besides it being riddled with automobile accidents. Her daughter Serena suffered injuries in a car at only 18-months old after being rear-ended. Her son Travis, 4, was half-paralyzed after being run down by a car on their street. For Candy Lightner, this was life, and nothing could be done to prevent intoxicated people from driving their vehicles.

On May 3rd, 1980, everything changed for Candy. Her daughter Cari, 13, was struck down by a drunk driver and instantly killed. This tragedy sent Lightner into a frenzy as she became an unlikely leader in a movement against drunk driving. Candy Lightner founded the non-Profit MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, to start a revolution in social awareness and governmental responsibility. She earned respect mothers nationwide as well as from President Ronal Reagan, who appointed her to serve on the National Commission on Drunk Driving in 1982.

The Law of Respect was at hand in Lightner’s life. She was an unlikely leader who many would not expect anything from that commanded respect for her cause. You do not have to be the most educated person to become a leader; you need respect.

People want to follow people they respect greatly. — John C. Maxwell

12th Grade English

In my senior year of high school, I was in Advanced Placement English studying poetry. I analyzed some poems for one of my assignments using evidence within the text. My teacher, at the time, failed me for misreading the verses. I was shocked. I tried to show her how I came to my conclusions using the text itself, but she only wanted me to see the poem through her perspective. I remember telling her that is not how writing works. It comes to life for everyone in a different way, that is what is beautiful about art.

She wasn’t having it and maintained my failed grade. I immediately lost all respect for her. Rather than persevere through it, I decided I could not learn from someone I did not respect. I went to my counselor and asked to switch out of that class, but there were no other AP English classes available. I looked down the list of available teachers and saw that my 10th grade English teacher was now teaching 12th grade English. He was a teacher I highly respected and who helped stir a passion in me for reading and writing. I abandoned the AP class and all of its college credit opportunities to take a regular English class because of the Law of Respect.


People follow leaders who they respect. Leaders must lead in a way that promotes growth, development, and confidence in their followers. You do not need a college degree to influence others; you only need to respect yourself, your mission, and your followers.

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