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How to Become a Better Leader Than You Ever Thought Possible

What makes certain leaders excel in the workplace while others struggle? Have you ever wondered if you were capable of getting more out of life and work? In the Netflix series Medal of Honor, inspiring stories of impossible bravery are recreated from sworn accounts and battlefield forensics. You quickly learn combat is not something great, and recipients of the nation's highest recognition don't set it as a goal. But these heroic lessons from the worst day of life reveal an unexpected leadership lesson. It's a leadership mindset and skillset for how to become a better leader than you thought possible.

Selfless love changes everyone and everything

The contemporary workplace needs a different kind of leader. Rates of stress, anxiety, sadness, and anger are trending up. In a recent survey, Gallup found that 57% of US employees feel stressed daily. In speaking with frontline to c-suite leaders across various industries, one common theme is that the new normal is crisis-driven.

In the series trailer, Medal of Honor recipient Army Capt. Florent Groberg says, "One thing you will learn a lot about in combat is love." The stories in the series remind us of what has been done for our country and what is possible when leaders embrace selfless love.

Selflessness means being more concerned with the needs and desires of others than with your needs. And one of the best definitions I have come across for love in the workplace context comes from St. Thomas Aquinas.

"To love is to will the good of the other." St. Thomas Aquinas

Selfless love is a radically different paradigm from a transactional worldview of the workplace. Without selfless love in the workplace, the best of what might be is impossible

  • Selfless love creates remarkable courage that overcomes the fear of failure.

  • Selfless love unlocks the leader's and their team's potential to deliver amazing results.

Overcoming the fear of failure

No organization is looking to stay the same year over year. Fostering innovation within an organization is an increasingly important leadership behavior for every business.

Innovation and failure are interconnected, where one produces the other. Failure is not always bad, but an unhealthy fear of failure puts results at risk.

Fear minimizes experimentation and risk-taking, which impact innovation and change. The greater the fear of failure, the more likely an individual or organization will avoid taking necessary risks.

"On his very worst day, he managed to summon his very best. That's the nature of courage — not being unafraid but confronting fear and danger and performing in a selfless fashion. He showed his guts, he showed his training; how he would put it all on the line for his teammates." President Obama speaking of Medal of Honor recipient Captain Groberg

Selfless love creates remarkable courage that overcomes fear. When leaders practice selfless love, it creates safety where followers are more willing to take risks and be open to failures.

Selfless love does not imply that leaders ignore the fear of failure. Instead, they recognize the negative influence of fear and use it as an advantage.

Delivering Results and Maximizing Performance Potential

Too often, employees are treated like light bulbs, considered disposable. When they aren't working well, leaders look to replace them. Disposable employees aren't committed to the business, and a failure to maximize employee performance is a costly mistake. Selfless love unlocks potential in the leader and their team, delivering amazing results and business growth.

Selfless love makes a better workplace and improves outcomes. It increases leader and follower commitment, increasing intrinsic motivation that amplifies workforce alignment and business strategy benefits. Evidence suggests that increased employee intrinsic motivation causes people to achieve better business results.

In addition to increased productivity of expected behavior, selfless love impacts an employee's discretionary effort, also known as organizational citizenship behavior (OCB). Discretionary effort is considered the penultimate type of performance in organizations. OCB is when employees contribute to an organization beyond their formal job requirements.

There's nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer. "— General James Doolittle, Medal of Honor Recipient

An emerging leadership style for the new normal

Evidence suggests that only 43% of employees indicate a positive team climate at work, only 30% see a reason to say something when they see something is wrong, and only 30% believe their opinion counts. This distrust breeds polarization in society and the workplace.

There are many red flags that the workplace is in trouble. Gallups Global Workplace report found evidence suggesting that 2 in 10 employees consider their mental health fair or poor, 3 in 10 are engaged at work, and 5 in 10 are only doing the minimum required at work.

Effective leadership makes a difference in the results you achieve and the life you live. The costs of poor leadership often show up in the workplace disguised as low employee engagement, a lack of team cohesion and collaboration, high employee turnover, and failed execution.

Leaders must continually transform and adapt or fall behind. Striving for better habits is a competitive advantage available to any leader looking for a powerful point of differentiation.

Servant Leadership is a distinctly different emerging leadership style described by the attribute of selfless love. A servant leader serves others first. The benefits of servant leadership extend beyond reducing costs and improving performance to include employee retention, intrinsic motivation, and discretionary effort.

The following short video from leadership expert Ken Blanchard provides some thoughts on the power of servant leadership in today's workplace.

Robert Greenleaf is attributed by most as the founder of servant leadership, described a servant leader as a servant first and used the following test to answer the question, what's servant leadership?

The best test, and difficult to administer, is: do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will they benefit, or, at least, will they not be further deprived. ~Greenleaf & Spears

Are you a Servant Leader?

Take this free quiz to learn if your leadership style aligns with servant leadership.

If you’re like most leaders, you’re running from meeting to meeting and working at a breakneck pace to manage your business and help those around you be successful. You’ve probably neglected to invest in your development more than once and wish you had a meaningful development plan to help you and your business grow and lead at a higher level. I invite you to check out our Servant Leadership Development Program.

I challenge you to apply selfless love as a leader in the workplace and see your business results improve. What about your leadership style needs to change to get more out of life and work?

Key Summary Points

  • Selfless love changes everyone and everything

  • Selfless love creates courage and overcomes the fear of failure

  • Selfless love unlocks potential in the leader and the organization

  • Selfless love delivers amazing business results

  • The world needs a different kind of leader.

  • Selfless love is rare.


Becchetti, L., Castriota, S., & Tortia, E. C. (2013). Productivity, wages, and intrinsic motivations.

Gallup Workplace. (2021). State of the global workforce. Gallup.

Greenleaf, R. K., & Spears, L. C. (2002). Servant leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness (25th-anniversary ed.).

Mulinge, P. (2018). ALTRUISM AND ALTRUISTIC LOVE: Intrinsic motivation for servant-leadership. The International Journal of Servant-Leadership, 12(1), 337-370.

Patterson, K. (2003, October 16). Servant leadership: A theoretical model [PDF].

Shu, C. (2015). The impact of intrinsic motivation on the effectiveness of leadership style towards work engagement.


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I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

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Are you ready to make this year your best ever?

Hi, I'm Dr. Jeff Doolittle. I'm determined to make your personal and professional goals a reality. My only question is, are you?

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About Dr. Jeff Doolittle

He is the founder of Organizational Talent Consulting in Grand Rapids, MI, and Program Director of online graduate and continuing business education at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL. Executive leaders who work with Jeff describe him as thoughtful, decisive, intelligent, and collaborative. Jeff is a business executive with over twenty years of talent development and organizational strategy experience working with C-suite leaders in Fortune 100, Forbes top 25 private, for-profit, non-profit, and global companies in many industries.

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