“Great leadership: Good Things Happen to Those Who Do Good”

This was a favorite quote of my fellow high school football coach and friend Matt Hinkle, head football coach at Shelton High School in Shelton, Washington.

Every time someone made a good block, a catch, a touchdown, or in response to something someone did that was positive, Matt would congratulate them with his favorite phrase.

I liked it so much that I began using it, with his permission of course, and continue to affirm good behavior with Matt’s saying.

Is it your practice to affirm positive actions with some kind of affirmation of the good done, as a way of motivating others to continue doing good, or as a motivational tool in general?

Doing Good

Unquestionably, doing good is a societal norm that has reduced pain and suffering, as well as increasing the social standing of many people.

Alexi de Tocqueville is often credited with saying, “America is great because America is good. When America ceases to be good, she will no longer be great.”

Regardless of the authenticity of the statement, there is some truth to it regarding America because there has always been a society value of doing good by helping others without necessity of policy, regulation, or law.

The Desire to Do Good

The Golden Rule – ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ – provides some basis for this desire to do good.

I found over my teaching career that many young people today have no idea about the Golden Rule or what it says.

The idea of treating others as you would have them treat you, while a simple concept, seems to be absent from the ideals of America today, even in leadership philosophy. As with things of meaning with an inner value, this ideal is not unique to the Golden Rule.

In his “Critique of Practical Reason” Immanuel Kant said, “I am constantly amazed of two things: the starry heavens above and the moral law within.”

Covey, in the Forward of 25th Anniversary Edition of Greenleaf’s Servant Leadership edited by Larry C. Spears, says that “Conscience is the moral law within that overlaps our behavior.

Universal Conscience

I believe this “enthusiasm” — entheos, having a god within — to do good comes from the moral law and is the voice of God telling us that it is the right thing to do.

Covey goes on to say that, in his observance of different religions and cultures, there is a universal conscience revealed time and again.

Professor Harry J. Gensler of John Carroll University, whose Masters’ and Doctorate degrees focused on the Golden Rule, says that this behavior is endorsed by all world religions.

Great Leadership

The moral law within drives one’s enthusiasm to follow the Golden Rule, which insure that one leads with moral authority.

“Leading with Moral Authority” is one of the Seven Pillars of Servant leadership. Leading by the Golden Rule, restrained within the “moral law”, enthuses us to do the right thing as we serve others in our leadership.

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It makes one worthy of respect, inspiring trust and confidence in leaders, which establishes a spirited standard of performance.

Leading with moral authority helps insure that we make principle-centered decisions. Through this leadership pillar we empower others to lead from a moral base, enforcing standards for conduct and performance.

Leaders use these principles and practices when mentoring poor performance to influence behaviors that contributes to improved productivity.

Good on You

I once worked for an Admiral, who had a favorite saying of “Good on YOU!” This simple motivating affirmation encourages future behaviors of doing good.

I have seen employees smile with personal gratification when I said to them, “Good on YOU!”. Regardless of the magnitude of recognition, it tells the employee, “Good things happen to those who do good.”

In Leading with Soul: An Uncommon Journey of Spirit, the authors tell the story of Vietnam veteran Randy Way. He became addicted to heroin in Vietnam, considered suicide during his turmoil’s after the war, but finally became drug free with the help of another Vietnam Veteran.

Way discovered a simple truth: “When I do good, I feel good.”

Intrinsic Reward

Doing good provides immense internal feelings of satisfaction. This intrinsic reward realized by a leader encourages repeated behaviors. As those being led see the affects of doing good, they too are “touched internally” to do good, especially when they see personal and organization improvement as a result of the positive behavior.

Greenleaf refers to this as a “healing” process for the person doing good. Greenleaf writes of a meeting that took place with Physicians and Theologians who were asked, “Why do you do what you do?” Their answer, “For our own healing.”

When we do no good for others, there is no reward and no intrinsic value.

Secondly, doing good with expectations of rewards, provides materialistic rewards, but no sense of healing or gratification.

The Greatest Reward

The greatest reward is realized when we do good for the sake of others, we are rewarded with the intrinsic reward of personal healing. As Randy Way implies above, “I feel good because I did good.”

Doing good is a prescription for healing within, which also motivates us to repeat the behavior.

“Good Things Happen To Those Who Do Good!” A great practice of affirmation for good behavior, motivating a snow-balling of good performance.

What Are the Inner Values of Great Leadership?

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David McCuistion
David is a retired Naval Officer with extensive leadership and management experience including Officer-in-Charge of a major communication facility, in secondary education teaching leadership, and over five years public speaking on Servant Leadership and organizational development topics.