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Serve to Be Great

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Serve to Be Great

Leadership Lessons from a Prison, a Monastery, and a Boardroom


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Businesspeople who help others actually help themselves: How Matt Tenney learned “servant leadership” the hard way.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


“Servant leadership” means doing everything you can to improve the lives of those around you. Many successful organizations practice servant leadership, thanks to visionary CEOs who recognize and celebrate the value of their employees. In this mix of an autobiography and an executive handbook, Matt Tenney will convince you that servant leadership is the only sensible option for contemporary leaders seeking to maximize their organization’s potential. The author explains why executives and managers who want to improve the bottom line should set aside their egos and focus on empowering their people. Tenney offers unique insight, advice and inspiration – hard won from his experience in prison, a monastery and the boardroom – as he builds a watertight case for the servant-leadership management philosophy. getAbstract strongly recommends his ideas and methods to leaders at every level and those aspiring to lead.


Greed Becomes Peacefulness

Matt Tenney wanted to gain financial freedom before his 30th birthday. He initially went about it the wrong way. As an officer in the US Marine Corps, he initiated a plot to steal nearly $3 million in cash from the Corps by forging a fake procurement transaction. He “arranged the unauthorized delivery of $2.79 million from the Federal Reserve Bank of Los Angeles to the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base.” After signing the final delivery documents, he purchased a one-way ticket to Brazil. On his way to the airport, the FBI arrested him.

He spent six months in the brig, in solitary confinement 22 hours a day. He was devastated: He had dishonored the Marines, wasted his life and humiliated his family. Barely able to face himself as a criminal and realizing he could be sentenced to 70 to 80 years in jail, he prayed, “Please don’t let me wake up in the morning.”

To avoid the expense of a trial, the government offered Tenney a plea bargain: He pled guilty and served 5 ½ years in jail. Being imprisoned turned out to be a blessing in disguise. After much anguish and contemplation, Tenney learned to practice “mindfulness,” a method of focusing...

About the Author

Matt Tenney is a frequent speaker and a consultant with the Perth Leadership Institute.

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    A. H. 5 years ago
    Interesting and covers most of the points
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    S. M. 5 years ago
    Great summary! Very good insight into an often overlooked aspect of leadership. Plan on purchasing the full book!
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    J. A. 5 years ago
    Love the fact this summary really gives a great vision of what it takes to be a true leader. Servant leadership really showcases how people can serve their people to get the most out of their talents.