Thirty Years from Now, What Will Your Resume or Eulogy Say About You?

When a young person is setting out on their career path, it’s normal for them to be focused on climbing the ladder and padding their resume with achievements. The only way to do this is through an intense focus on hard work, as well as achievement and recognition of that hard work. As they move into leadership roles, more money, status, and notoriety become part of the package.

Once a person has fought their way to the front of the pack and has the freedom to make leadership decisions, though, what’s the best path? Which leadership style will be more fulfilling? A continued focus on an ever-increasing salary and recognition for one’s business achievements, or a servant leader mentality that uses one’s position to make a real difference in the world? Looking back thirty years from now, which path will yield the most impressive results?

For some leadership styles, the pull of power and a bulging wallet create an insatiable hunger for more, more, more. Titles and positions are all-important, and it doesn’t matter what must happen or who one must step over in order to achieve the next position up. In this consumer-crazed, “look at me!” world, there is always a more expensive vehicle or a larger home to be attained.

When it doesn’t matter who a person must step over to get to the top, competition reigns supreme. Once someone has climbed the ladder, there are always people who wish to tear at them and pull them back down. This makes building trust and real friendships a challenge. It’s lonely at the top.

Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value.” —Albert Einstein

For the servant leader, while a nice salary is a plus, it’s not the overall purpose. While they have an innate desire to lead and succeed, they also wish to inspire others to do the same. They don’t step over others on the way up; they offer others a hand. Servant leaders are secure enough to encourage others to achieve their potential, as well. This isn’t entirely altruistic; they realize that by building a circle of strong, capable people around them, it makes them stronger leaders, as well.

They also feel a social responsibility to give back. Servant leaders can’t feel good about the wealth they enjoy if they aren’t doing all they can to help others lead healthy, happy lives, as well. They will often have their companies take part in programs that benefit their communities—a great way to model and encourage charitable behavior in their employees. Their greatest joy comes not from personal financial gains, but in being able to share those gains with those who are less fortunate.

Resume or Eulogy…

What happens in thirty years when these two leaders look back on their lives and careers? The first leader will have a very impressive resume to look back on, but after retirement, all of those titles and kudos no longer apply. The numbers in the bank account may still exist (or not), but since it’s lonely at the top, who will this person surround themselves with to enjoy that wealth? Will they have made any real, lasting connections?

The servant leader, on the other hand, will have more than just a resume to look back on. This person will have an entire eulogy laying out a life well-lived, as well as influence and wealth gladly-shared. They will have inspired and positively impacted the lives of others in ways that will not be forgotten. They will not have only been a successful business leader; they will have been a successful human being.