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Jul-26-2010 17:35printcomments

Earning the Right to Serve

In the end, what you have done to touch and impact the lives of others is what will truly make a difference. It is then you will understand the power of serving.

Service industry

(CHARLESTON, SC) - I will never forget driving through a small Florida town many years ago. As I drove past a small family diner there was a sign out front that read, “Come in and eat before we both starve.” While meant to be humorous, the sign is as pertinent now as it was years ago. The owners were dependant upon patrons for their business, and consumers with an appetite appreciate the value and service of a nice place to eat.

In one word John Maxwell defined leadership as influence. And if influence is the one word by which leadership can be defined, service is the fuel by which it operates. William J.H. Boetcker said, “The more you learn what to do with yourself, and the more you do for others, the more you will learn to enjoy the abundant life.” Once leaders wrap their hearts and minds around the concept of service, it will change not only the culture within your organization, it will separate you from your competitors as well.

Creating a culture of service within your organization begins with a basic sense of purpose and understanding as to why you exist. For your team it is the recognition and understanding that the customers which you rely upon are not a distraction, a nuisance, nor an interruption, in fact, they are the reason you exist. Yet the concept of service transcends how we treat the customer, it also is a reflection of how within the organization you treat one another.

Carrie Chapman Catt said, “Service to a just cause rewards the worker with more real happiness and satisfaction than any other venture in life.” While it is true that good service is good for business, living a life of service to others is good for everyone.

Service is a difference maker, be it with your customers, your team, or in any other venture in which you can find yourself useful. Here are three things to understand with regard to service and how it develops a meaningful life.

Who you serve is a reflection of your priorities. Everyone wants to make a difference and live a life of significance. Dave Thomas said, “Unselfish and noble actions are the most radiant pages in the biography of souls.” Thomas is a great example of a leader who served others by promoting his Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption which has helped children find loving homes since the inception of the foundation in 1991.

Who you serve reaches beyond your customer base and touches countless lives through service organizations and programs that you believe in. The philosophy is simple; find a need and do your part to meet it. While those you serve will be appreciative, internally you are creating a culture in your organization that understands that you are serving causes greater than yourself.

How you serve is a reflection of your heart. Emily Yellin, the author of Your Call Is (not that) Important to Us, says, “Some really backward companies still view customer service as merely an inescapable nuisance. Realize that most of the world is moving on from that retro view.” A wise leader understands that it does not matter if the product is superior, if the service is terrible, the customer can always go somewhere else.

Joseph Joubert said, “A part of kindness consists in loving people more than they deserve.” Acts of kindness should not be random but standard. How we treat clients, our colleagues, and our families, are found in making kindness a practice. You may not choose who you serve in your business, but you do choose how you will treat them.

Why you serve is a reflection of your motives. Albert Einstein eloquently said, “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” While serving others is beneficial to your bottom line, builds a strong customer base, and builds morale within your organization, it is humbling to know that a greater cause is being served.

Service transcends customer relations and the existence of your product. In the end, what you have done to touch and impact the lives of others is what will truly make a difference. It is then you will understand the power of serving.

Doug Dickerson is the former editor of the Berkeley Independent newspaper in South Carolina and is currently the director of university relations at Charleston Southern University. Doug’s writing has been recognized by the South Carolina Press Association, having won awards for enterprise reporting, series of articles, and for humor column writing. Doug’s passion for communicating leadership principles and personal development is crystallized through his Management Moment column and leadership columns he writes. Read more of Doug’s columns on his blog at

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