Leadership is paradoxical.

It seems those who seek to lead for the purpose of leading, many times, get lost in selfish pursuits, while those who seek to serve for the purpose of making a difference are followed because of the purity of their examples. The latter are leaders, not because of their quest to lead, but because others are inspired to emulate and follow them.

I believe one of the greatest leaders of all time was Mother Teresa. Her compassion compelled her to action. Her aim was to care for the dying and attend to the needs of the impoverished, choosing an impoverished lifestyle herself. Her love for others was her motivation.

Like Mother Teresa did, exemplary leaders get on their hands and knees to do the dirty work, not delegate it. They choose to listen over striving to be heard. Great leaders wash other’s feet rather than expect their shoes to be shined. They love people before all else, focusing their efforts on individuals—yet in time, the masses are reached.

Great leaders do not seek recognition to establish their importance; rather, they know who they are. They see rather than strive to be seen. Great leaders extend comfort, even when it is they who need comforting.

Great leaders hurt and cry with those who are in pain, rather than cry over spilled milk—because they know there are some who will never even get to taste it. They draw others to servanthood by showing them how. Great leaders personally provide hope for those in despair, rather than watch from a distance and “hope for the best.”

Great leaders seek to meet needs yet simplify their own. They walk intrepidly into the future because of the integrous foundation they have built. They dream less because they live more and sleep less.

Great leaders rely on others around them, humbly acknowledging they do not have all the answers, yet they exude strength of discipline and character. Great leaders laugh and play, bringing joy to work and light-heartedness to heavy challenges. They keep their eyes looking straight ahead, yet somehow always have your back because they never place themselves ahead of you.

Great leaders set out to meet a need, and in doing so, inspire others to come along for the cause.

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