Leadership Really Means Selfless Service

By | September 22, 2018

[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.

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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.

17 thoughts on “Leadership Really Means Selfless Service

  1. Greg Heyman

    Another truly relevant and worthy article. Selfless service is certainly overlooked as a valued leader characteristic. Others have pointed out that the SELFISH people we have in the West (and elsewhere, of course) are now dominating politics, the media, schools (all of them), and Hollywood. The last one should not be a surprise. The few institutions left where SELFLESS SERVICE reigns are in the military, police forces, and a few other similar organizations. If you are in one of these, you have my deepest respect.

    1. Gil Johnson

      Well said, Greg. Propaganda is everywhere and you have to be on the right moral track to see it for what it is.

    2. Dale Paul Fox

      Excellent points. Selfish is what we train young kids to be today. How sad is that?

  2. Albert Ayer

    “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy

  3. Bryan Lee

    I was reading PowerLineBlog yesterday. It was the regular Friday column by Ammo Grrrll. Love her stuff. Anyway, she points out the fruitlessness of being self-centered despite the great attention one gets. I remember my son waving frantically at the tv cameras one time. He wanted the attention and people to notice him. But it was at a fatal car accident that we had to slow down to get by. Selfishness is supposed to be trained out of us by the time we’re teenagers. Oh well, not any more. https://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2018/09/thoughts-from-the-ammo-line-239.php

  4. Lynn Pitts

    Another good article to put into my leadership rucksack. Hey, thanks General Satterfield for another Saturday morning leader-read. My pet dog is sitting beside me looking up as I type. He’s a German Shepherd and a better leader than most so-called leaders I know.

  5. Darryl Sitterly

    Ha. Victim status means you are not in control. I don’t know about you but I like to be in control of my own destiny because it’s too important to leave it to amateurs. Great article. Thanks.

    1. Tracey Brockman

      Let’s not all stand by while people who are too focused on themselves run everything. I say just call them out when they act stupidly and self-centered. That way we show some moral courage and might actually change a few minds in the process. Good point, Darryl.

  6. Nick Lighthouse

    Thanks for another article that points out the common defects that leaders often have. The self-centered “me generation” to the “millennial generation” are all focused on me me me. Just look at the “me too” movement and how its all about them. No surprised that it cropped up. Now everyone wants to be a victim.

  7. Eddie Ray Anderson,

    As I sat in my comfortable chair with a cup of coffee and thought about your article, the first thing that came to mind was that someone actually thought enough of the idea of selfless service to actually write about it. Nearly everyone I know would say you’re nuts if you don’t get everything you can. Wow, how society has changed and not for the better.

  8. Max Foster

    Want to know more about selfless service? Then turn to those who really know what they’re talking about. Here a great article by the Association of the United States Army. They asked several Sergeant Majors (senior enlisted men) what they thought selfless service was about. Their answers are worth the time to read.
    https://www.ausa.org/army/selfless-service

  9. Janna Faulkner

    Great comments today, Gen. Satterfield. Focused and to the point about an important topic of interest to me.

  10. Doug Smith

    Great list of leadership characteristics to go with what it means to be selfless. I personally have found people who don’t even understand the concept. Most of them are young and inexperienced. But I have ask myself, “how did they get this far without knowing the concept?”

  11. Army Captain

    Good topic this morning and I appreciate the fact that you included a great quote that shows even politicians can understand that selfless service matters a great deal.

    1. Watson Bell

      Thanks for your continuing good comments and for your service.

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