December 12, 2022

Servant Leadership: Acting with Compassion, Humility and Gratitude

“The secret to happiness is to love. The essence of love is to serve.”

Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing was a special Irish priest who founded Boys’ and Girls’ Town of Italy for the orphaned and abandoned children following World War II. He happened to be visiting Italy during the war where he started taking care of a single child that lost his family. Quickly it grew to helping over 50,000 orphaned children. Although it was headquartered in Italy, he nurtured children from all over the world. He would say that every tear you wipe off a child’s face, lights up a star in the sky. More than just compassion, he taught them many life skills and lessons. His life’s altruistic work led to a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. Over his lifetime, he had traveled from Rome, and we were fortunate to host him in our dining room and see him at his annual golf fundraising event.

The secret to happiness is to love. The essence to love is to serve. Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing wrote that quotation to me in a letter when he was in his eighties. These simple words have made a profound impact on my life.

Aristotle said it this way, “What is the essence of life? To serve others and do good.” He also said, “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence. True happiness comes from gaining insight and growing into your best possible self. Otherwise, all you’re having is immediate gratification pleasure, which is fleeting and doesn’t grow you as a person.” Leadership is about service.

I have found that life is more about making a contribution than a comparison. It’s about making a difference. It’s about going from success to significance. Here’s a few ways I have tried to learn (I am not perfect) to be a better servant leader.

I have learned that when treating others with respect, that feeling permeates throughout the culture. Sometimes people may forget what people say, but they rarely forget how you made them feel.

It’s important to me to determine what my legacy will be. It’s much bigger than business success, financial success or fame. Warren Buffet, the legendary investor, surprisingly said, “you’ll really measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually love you.”

Often people might think success and power are important, but maybe I need to be reminded how essential compassion and kindness are.

Occasionally, I reflect to review situations and ask questions: What could I have done better? What mistakes have I made? What have I learned? How could I improve? Many great leaders have the ability to ask for assistance, they willingly receive input and recognize that they don’t have all the answers and can’t always control all the outcomes.

I feel many of the world problems stem from the lack of love. What a better world it would be if there was more genuine love.

Compassion, humility and gratitude are inter-related. Relationships are amongst the most important aspect of life. Ultimately bringing us the most happiness. Lead to achieve what is truly important in life. I have found that when I attempt to use the 8 E’s (Encounter. Embrace. Engage. Encourage. Empathize. Energize. Empower. Execute), I can build, nurture and enhance relationships with others. Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing’s words are simple, yet so profound.  

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