Fearless Leadership Is Rooted in Service — Here's Why

What's the one motivator that drives truly fearless leaders? 

Jacob Lund/stock.adobe.com

Over the past few years, leaders have talked a lot about the need for internal motivation that drives them to perform. That just means they need something inside them pushing them to do whatever it is they do. They don't look to others to keep them going. But what's the one motivator that drives truly fearless leaders?

It's a sense of service.

How Serving Helps Your Business

When you embrace the idea of serving, you are constantly looking at what you can do for someone else. You use everything you've got to make the world a little better. You keep asking yourself, "How can I help?"

How does this connect to your company? First, think about your mission. Every business has to have a clear concept of why they do business at all. An attitude of serving others should be the foundation for that work, no matter what kind of industry you're in.

Second, people tend to mirror what they see. So when it comes to company culture, when you serve others, your workers will take cues from you. They'll help each other out, collaborate more easily and keep your mission front and center as a team. Because they understand from you that everyone can contribute and everyone is important, it's much easier to keep office politics from taking over.

Why Is Serving As a Leader So Tough?

With an attitude of service having such clear benefits, you'd think everyone would jump to do it. But the trouble is, human nature — and our culture – can be a beast sometimes. We learn that if we do tasks, we'll get recognized for those jobs and that feels amazing. We like the feeling that we've been noticed and done things right.

Adopting an attitude of service requires us to ditch all that and, instead of always looking to receive, become the givers. We have to stop looking to others to prop up our sense of worth, and that often means we have to do real work to decide what our own values and strengths truly are. If you're not ready to face that work, then serving others on your own or through your company can seem completely out of reach. Not only that, but a lot of the time, service might require you to go places you didn't plan on or to solve problems you hadn't even thought about before. That uncertainty can be scary. But the only antidote is to be fearless, even in the midst of what's unpredictable or unfamiliar.

The Journey to the Background

When I think about serving as a leader, I can't help but think of the military. Some of the absolute best servants in the U.S. military are the Navy Seals. What makes them so extraordinary is that they often work extremely covertly. They might be the only ones who know what they did for a mission, and they don't go advertising any of it.

Serving as a leader in business can feel similar in that the more you provide accolades or resources to others instead of seeking them for yourself, the more you fade into the background. But being "invisible" doesn't mean being unimportant. No one sees the foundation of a house, but if it wasn't there, then the whole building would crumble. You are your team's foundation whenever you serve, and the fact that you aren't the person who others automatically pat on the back is actually a measure of how well you're doing your job.

Even as a servant, you're still human. You're still going to ask yourself if all the giving is worth it. But when you can tell yourself that you made a positive impact and put your finger on what that impact was, that's when it's clear your service really had value.

You can see the value of serving from your results, too. Did you complete your mission according to your values? Is the world closer to what you believe in, either in the way people behave or what they have available? If the answer is yes, then you met the goal.

Be Fearless, Be Free and Give Your Absolute Best

Embrace freedom and give up the idea that as a founder, executive or manager, you have to be the one with all the trophies or be the "face" of the business. Do good things just because it's right and because you can, not because someone is going to put you on a pedestal. As long as you know things are not the same as they were before because you fearlessly faced yourself and what needed improving around you, you'll pull yourself, your business and your community in the right direction.

The Newsweek Expert Forum is an invitation-only network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.
What's this?
Content labeled as the Expert Forum is produced and managed by Newsweek Expert Forum, a fee based, invitation only membership community. The opinions expressed in this content do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Newsweek or the Newsweek Expert Forum.

Editor's pick

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to Newsweek.com
  • Ad free Newsweek.com experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to Newsweek.com
  • Ad free Newsweek.com experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts