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The story is told of a man on horseback riding up to a group of men digging a trench with one man, the apparent leader, barking orders and threatening punishment as the battle wearied soldiers were digging. The man on the horse asked, “Why aren’t you helping them?”

The man retorted, “I’m in charge. These men do as I tell them.” Then he added, “Help them yourself if you feel so strongly about it.” The man climbed down from his horse and worked alongside the men until the job was finished.

Afterward, the stranger congratulated the men for a job well done. Then turning to the “leader” the horseman stated, “You should notify top command the next time your rank prevents you from assisting your men and I will come up with a more permanent solution.” It was at that moment that the leader recognized the stranger as none other than General George Washington.

One key in quality leadership is helping others to perform at his/her best and assist in improving their skills. Threatening, criticizing, or treating others as less than you is not leadership. You can play leader, ridicule and criticize people or you can get in the trenches with them and demonstrate true leadership. Respect is earned and the very best way to earn respect as a leader is to get in the trenches (so to speak) and work alongside your employees/volunteers.

Respect is earned through positive interactions with employees/volunteers. A good rule of thumb is to treat others as though they could surpass you in workmanship and leadership ability. Don’t treat your employees/volunteers as lower than you. Treat them with respect and watch how they flourish on the job and in private conversations. You can be guaranteed after that night in the trenches, those men would gladly do whatever George Washington would ask. Why? Respect.

George Yates is the Church Health Strategist for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, assisting churches and individuals in pursuing God’s purpose for life. Learn more at ALSBOM.org/revitalization.

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