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How Do You Earn Respect in Your 20s?

Duty Definition: Taking action based on your assigned tasks and moral obligations.

When I was a 23 year old Army lieutenant I had a leader I didn’t respect. He was smart and knowledgeable about his job and mine. He had a good sense of humor and could talk to just about anyone. I heard from others that he even said nice things about me when I was not around. But I didn’t respect him.

Would you respect somebody who:

  • Came to work late and left early?

  • Consistently “lost” paperwork?

  • Never did more than he was required to do?

  • Didn’t spend time to develop his subordinates?

  • Blamed his soldiers when things went wrong?

  • Was a “yes man” when a senior officer spoke, but complained when he left?

That leader set a poor example when it came to exercising the habit of Duty. Maybe he misunderstood the concept of Duty. We define Duty as “taking action based on both our assigned tasks and moral obligations.”

A lot of people do just enough to get by and they think that is enough. Their feelings determine their work ethic each day and think that is enough. They don’t take any extra steps or offer to do a little more than expected and they think that is enough. They identify problems for other people to solve and they think that is enough.

Then these same people wonder why they don’t earn the respect of their peers and the people who will determine the next step in their careers.

Who do you respect? Someone who only does the minimum? Somebody who looks for the easy way? A person who lets their current emotional state determine whether they will fulfill past promises? Don’t let yourself build the same habits my former leader developed.

How do you earn respect? By doing your Duty. Most people will give you the benefit of the doubt in the beginning. Most people will respect you because you are a living, breathing member of the human race. But after that, they will be watching to see what you do. If you do your Duty – go beyond the minimum and take action based on your moral obligations as well – they will respect you and want to follow you.

Over the next few weeks, we will discuss how Duty is a Habit of Character that is critical to develop as you enter the professional workplace. We have already discussed how Courage, Humility, Integrity and Selflessness prepare people in their twenties to become Leaders of Character now and will prepare them to lead with character well into the future.

The character of that leader made me not respect him. I was only 23 at the time. I realize now that he was only 28. He may have been young, but his example sticks with me today. Doing our Duty is a signal that others recognize and remember. If you do your Duty, more often than not, they will respect you. If they don’t, at least you will respect yourself.


  • Who is a peer who always seems to do his/her Duty?

  • What moral obligations will you encounter this week?


“Would you follow you?” That is a critical question we all need to ask ourselves if we want to become Leaders of Character. Research has proven that people want to follow character. But where is your character today?

Here is a quick assessment that will take you 5 minutes to figure it out. Nobody will ever see your results but you.

Warning: If you are not going to be honest with yourself this is a worthless assessment.

To take the assessment use the QR code above or go to

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