[September 22, 2018] The other day I was talking with two recently-retired enlisted soldiers who had each served almost 10 combat tours; in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s a lot of combat time by any measure. But what caught me by surprise was that they considered themselves just ordinary soldiers. To me, they are the epitome of selfless service.
It has been said often that to be good leaders, they must be completely selfless. Yes, that is true, and I’ve always believed it. What is easy to see is that someone who pretends to be selfish is quickly seen as a fraud. Some say our politicians are always faking their selflessness; a troubling commentary on those who lead us.
“Selfless service to the people and resolution of their problems should be the top priority of local bodies representatives, as they can come up to the expectations of the people only through service, hard work, and honesty.” – Shehbaz Sharif, Pakistani politician
Perhaps those naysayers aren’t looking deep enough into the motivations and character of politicians. In the quote above, we can now see that every society values selfless service or, if not, their society would cease to exist. It also takes more; hard work and honesty, of course, but also generosity, loyalty, respect, caring, and all those things we talk about when we talk leadership.
Leadership development is thus of great importance if we are to have quality leaders. Yet, we often do nothing to develop or encourage leaders. We don’t even do a good job of defining leadership or the characteristics that make for good leadership. In schools specifically, I see nothing being done to develop young people so they can understand the value of selfless service. If anything, most schools do the opposite.
Leadership truly means selfless service. Great leaders are motivated by what they can do for others. If a leader sees themselves as an extension of others and truly gains contentment through that service, then they are on the path to greatness. This, I believe, is the reason we say there is a crisis of leadership; we simply don’t encourage selfless service much anymore.