Frances Hesselbein on the Meaning of Life

a7b5e7_5196936d99a8411ebabd3484cc0fb13dI have several tattoos, imprinted with invisible ink, of course: “Ask, don’t tell,” and “Think first, speak last.” Both Peter Drucker quotes. The third – “To serve is to live,” is a personal belief, a philosophy I have lived throughout my life. When we truly focus on the common good, service is a privilege, not a challenge but a remarkable opportunity.

In my life, doors have opened. When I look at my journey — the many doors that were opened for me and the doors I opened myself—I have to ask, Who am I that people opened doors for me? How have I been able to open doors for others? It is hard to distill the qualities needed in response to Emerson’s “Be ye an opener of doors.” In who I am, I work hard to live by my values every day: respect, love, inclusion, diversity, listening and sharing.

I spend 1/3 of my time with corporations, 1/3 with nonprofit social sector organizations, 1/3 with students on college and university campuses, and somewhere in the middle, time with the leaders, the people of the U.S. military. So far, I’ve worked in 68 countries with never one disappointing moment.

Every global encounter is a rich learning experience, one that is much more than an exposure to the culture, the arts, the history, or the current political situation. Such experiences are about the hearts and minds, fellowships and friendships that make us who we are and bind us together in the human family.

Today, many of us have a platform, a forum. How can we use our position to encourage, motivate and inspire others to embrace national and community service? All of us can find our place in serving the common good in our own way, making our own contribution to a new and vibrant and caring society that only citizens can create, and ensure. “Work is love made visible.” To serve is to live.


~Frances Hesselbein, President and CEO of The Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute
As the recipient of twenty-one honorary doctoral degrees, the author of three autobiographies and the co-editor of 27 books in 29 languages, Frances Hesselbein is considered one of the country’s greatest leaders. From her service as the CEO of Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. from 1976-1990, to her recognition by former President Bill Clinton in 1998 as a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient for her work as “a pioneer for women, volunteerism, diversity and opportunity,” Frances has provided the world with a simple leadership philosophy: To serve is to live.

Copyright © 2016 Excellence Reporter
Photo credit: Michele Mattei

Categories: Excellence, Leadership

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