Serve to lead: the importance of contribution over achievement

4 minute read
Be a giver and serve others to build a compassionate global society, says professor MS Rao, the father of 'Soft Leadership'. Here he offers his top tips on how to do this
MS Rao

Serve to lead: the importance of contribution over achievement

The world has become highly complex with the rapid growth in technologies. As a result people have become busier with the least attention and concern for others emphasizing ‘What's in it for me?’ (WIIFM). The traditional values of giving to others are being replaced by getting from others. People often look for what they can get from others. They are becoming more selfish and self-centered. 

When you serve others you are engaged creatively, constructively and productively. You are busy doing good and great things in your life. It removes negative thoughts from your mind and replaces them with positive thoughts. You become optimistic and confident in life. You overcome your stress and anxiety. You will not have any mental illness because you will be occupied with volunteerism. You improve your immunity and enhance longevity. You improve your mood and enhance your self-esteem. You connect with others comfortably and improve your emotional intelligence and soft skills. You get inner satisfaction and happiness because you touched the lives of others. Overall, you improve your health and happiness.

Dave Ulrich remarked: “Sometimes brilliant leaders lack interpersonal savvy. They are lollipop leaders who have a great brain but no heart. They have not recognized that learning to work with others is a foundation for both personal happiness and professional success. They need to use their strengths to strengthen others.  Research has shown that people who care about people are 60% more likely to be promoted.  Economist Arthur Brooks also found that those who gave more and served more made more money not less. Those who gave to charity are 43% happier than those who do not give. Volunteering and helping others give you emotional, physical, and economic wellbeing.” 

How to serve others?

In his bestselling book Serve to Lead: 21st Century Leaders Manual James Strock advises: “Reflect on your experience: Who are you serving? Write down a list. Think about those you are serving effectively, and how you might do better. In what ways are you simply serving yourself? What areas of your life and your service do you regard as most effective? Why? Are you serving the same people and organizations and causes as in the past? Do you intend to serve different people and organizations and causes in the future? How will you decide? How have you decided in the past?”

There are many ways to serve others. The real question is what makes you happy to be able to help. Identify if it is volunteering, interacting and adding value to your communities.  There is magic in serving others. You become happy when people receive help from you. You enjoy seeing the spark of their smiles. Here are some ways to serve others. Serve someone every day. Help the person to you next door. If you are a teacher teach one person every day. Identify people suffering in your area and alleviate their suffering. Participate actively in non-profits. It gives you greater satisfaction than giving money to charitable trusts. It helps you understand the dynamics of non-profits and gives you a sense of identity and belongingness. Remember, the happiest people are the people who serve others the best.

Takers versus givers

Here are some differences between takers and givers. Takers are selfish while the givers are altruistic. Takers are self-centered while the givers are others-centered. Takers are transaction-oriented while the givers are people-oriented. Takers emphasize hard leadership while the givers emphasize soft leadership. Takers spread the blame during the failures and take fame during success. In contrast, givers spread fame during success and take the blame during failures. Takers look for short-term goals while the givers look for long-term goals. Precisely, takers keep profit before the people while the givers keep people before the profit. Although the takers achieve success quickly it is the givers who achieve success ethically at the end, leaving their footprints for others to follow. Currently, the takers outnumber the givers globally. There is an urgent need for a shift in the mindset of the people to be givers, not takers.  

Be a giver

People strive to receive awards and often pay money or lobby elite achievers to acquire awards. In fact, they must work for a cause, not for applause. They must do their duties sincerely without expecting anything reciprocally. They must add value to their neighbors and societies by becoming volunteers and participating in non-profits actively. So, be a giver and serve others to build a compassionate global society. 

Leaders including Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela served people with passion and led their lives with purpose and meaning. They were the ideal examples of givers who added immense value to their societies and made a difference. Therefore, serve others for a cause, not for applause. 

Emphasize contribution over achievement 

Currently people are more concerned about achievement than contribution. They must emphasize contribution over achievement. Advertising and marketing have become the order of the day. We come across several people on social media doing a lot of charity for the sake of publicity to build their brands rather than to add value to others. Great leaders serve others selflessly without any attention from the media. They contribute their best to creating a ripple effect.

Serve to lead

When you serve others you receive inner satisfaction and happiness as return gifts. Therefore, inculcate the attitude of serving others with your kind heart. If you give to the universe the universe gives you back. What goes around comes around. There is the least competition for givers. So, be a giver, not a taker. Serve others. Lead others. A life lived for others is more meaningful than the life lived for yourself. Therefore, add value to others. Make a difference in the lives of others. Serve to lead your life with passion and purpose. 

Professor MS Rao is the father of ‘Soft Leadership’ and founder of MSR Leadership Consultants in India. He was ranked #1 Thought Leader and Influencer in HR globally by Thinkers360 in 2020 and is a regular contributor to The People Space

Published 20 April 2022
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