For Leaders it’s not about Quid Pro Quo

By | December 18, 2018

[December 18, 2018]  Have you ever met a person who did something for you but insisted you return an item or service of at least equal value to them?  I would venture to say that most people expect to be compensated in some way.  With good leaders, however, it’s not about quid pro quo1 but about accomplishing a task or mission.

A close friend of mine taught me a lesson long ago about the fundamentals of true friendship.  Wilson and I were together since before we could even remember; the same age, homes next to one another, same interests, and wants.  Wilson and I were always getting into fights with each other but, at the end of the day, we were always friends.

He’d taught me that when gave a gift or did me a favor, that he did not expect anything in return, ever.  As a teenager, he explained that all his life was consumed with people who wanted him to give them an item or service of value if they had done something for him.  In other words, there was always a quid pro quo in the relationships he was in.

Wilson hated it.  When he did something for me or anyone else in our group of friends, he didn’t want anything in return.  Being a “good Christian” was what he wanted.  Giving is what being a good person is about and that means giving to others without want or desire for anything in return.  Wilson wanted to create goodwill for others.  His reward was the satisfaction that others were happy.

To this day I believe Wilson helped me become a successful man.  As a leader, I applied what he taught me in my leadership positions.  I’ve never been so selfish to think someone would pay me back if I’d done something special for them.  I do it for the pleasure of knowing they are better off in some way and perhaps they will give to others.

Real leadership is about creating goodwill for others and expecting nothing in return.  For leaders, it’s not about quid pro quo and never will be.


  1. In common law, quid pro quo indicates that an item or a service has been traded in return for something of value, usually when the propriety or equity of the transaction is in question.
Please follow and like us:
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

20 thoughts on “For Leaders it’s not about Quid Pro Quo

  1. Doug Smith

    “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” quote by US Pres Ronald Reagan
    Helps make the point here.
    Another good article for reading.

    1. Gil Johnson

      Pres Reagan was a great man and truly a good man too. He understood the concept of giving to others and expecting nothing in return. Some of our recent presidents didn’t get it.

      1. Wilson Cox

        Jimmy Carter got it but he was not a good president. Barack Obama never got it and there is debate on whether history will judge him or Carter as the worst president of the last 100 years.

  2. Lady Hawk

    Good article today, Gen. Satterfield. I’m sure, like me, you’ve experienced leaders who were both good and bad in their ability to get along with others and accomplish their tasks at the same time. Not hard to do for great leaders, but impossible for the weak.

  3. Yusaf from Texas

    On my way to work today I saw a man pull over to help another driver change a flat tire. It must have been a lot of work because they were both greasy from the task. I’m sure that doing this, the man who helped expected nothing in return. I see this often in Texas but less so in places like New York City or Los Angeles.

    1. Jerome Smith

      Too few simply cannot understand how important it is what you just wrote about.

  4. Ed Berkmeister

    Great leadership begins with understanding how to follow. Then it springs forth with selflessness on a scale only the best can even begin to understand. Great article today. Thanks. Oh, my dog is sitting here at my feet and we will shortly go for a walk. Why? Because it is a good thing that we both enjoy and we expect nothing in return for it.

  5. Andrew Dooley

    “Success is not how high you have climbed, but how you make a positive difference to the world.”
    ― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
    This is one of my favorite quotes ever.

    1. Darryl Sitterly

      … and that means sometimes simply doing things for others for absolutely no reason. That is why we say that leadership springs forth from the character of the heart and not from the logic of the brain.

    2. Andrew Dooley

      Here is another one frm Mr. Bennett that I also like: “Always remember people who have helped you along the way, and don’t forget to lift someone up.”
      ― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

  6. Scotty Bush

    “When the best leader’s work is done the people say, “We did it ourselves.” quote from Lao Tzu, famous Chinese philosopher.

  7. Army Captain

    To be a good leader you must not expect anything in return for your goodwill.

    1. Greg Heyman

      Right. Only when you understand this can you become a real leadership where people respect you and what you do.

      1. Watson Bell

        Always good to see you on Greg. Thanks for the spot on comment.

    2. Lynn Pitts

      You would think this is the hardest thing about being a leader because too many simply don’t understand this idea of ‘selfless service’.

Comments are closed.