Serve to Be Great | Matt Tenney

Summary of: Serve to Be Great: Leadership Lessons from a Prison, a Monastery, and a Boardroom
By: Matt Tenney


Welcome to the summary of ‘Serve to Be Great: Leadership Lessons from a Prison, a Monastery, and a Boardroom’ by Matt Tenney. This book dives deep into Tenney’s personal journey from an incarcerated military officer to a mindful and dedicated servant leader. Learn how servant leadership strengthens companies like Southwest Airlines, Next Jump, and Zappos, and discover the profound impact it has on employees and the business core. By incorporating mindfulness into your management approach, developing empathy, and nurturing innovation, you can foster an atmosphere for employees and customers to grow together. This book encourages readers to treat people nicely and understand the power of empathy in business decisions.

From Prison to Purpose

The book tells the story of Matt Tenney, a former US Marine Corps officer who was imprisoned for stealing almost $3 million from the Corps. During his 5 ½ years in jail, he discovered mindfulness, focused on the present, and learned to live a simple life. He discovered his passion for helping others and now shares his insights through speaking, coaching, and writing.

Matt Tenney’s book shares his journey from a life of crime to a life of purpose. As a young adult, he wanted to achieve financial freedom and resorted to illegal means, forging fake documents to steal almost $3 million from the US Marine Corps, for which he was sentenced to 5 ½ years in jail.

Life in jail was not easy for Tenney. He spent six months in solitary confinement with 22 hours of darkness a day. During this time, he discovered the power of mindfulness, which allowed him to focus on the present and accept his situation without comparing it to his past or future. He also learned to live simply, ignoring the constant noise and distractions around him, and practiced awareness training through long stretches of sitting silently. His journey toward inner peace helped him to empathize with his fellow prisoners and assist them in achieving peace of mind as well.

After his release, Tenney nearly became a monk but realized that his true calling was in helping others in the real world. He spent time in Mazatlan, Mexico, setting up a summer school at a children’s shelter, which allowed him to focus on helping people and spreading love. He now shares his insights on mindfulness and purpose through speaking, coaching, and writing.

Tenney’s story is one of hope, perseverance, and transformation. It shows that no matter how bleak our situation may seem, we can always choose to focus on what is within our control and use it for the greater good. By remaining mindful and living simply, we can transform our lives and help others do the same.

Servant Leadership in Business

The practice of servant leadership has been proven to yield positive business results, and many successful companies already incorporate it into their management beliefs. This leadership style places a commitment to others at the forefront, rather than a job title or measure of power. Southwest Airlines, Herschend Family Entertainment, and Next Jump are some examples of companies that have successfully implemented servant leadership, resulting in exceptional customer service, employee satisfaction, and talent retention. Firms with strong cultures can hire selectively and retain talented employees by engaging them fully in their work. The key is to inspire and touch their hearts, not just provide convincing arguments.

The Impact of Cognitive Biases on Managerial Performance

Dr. E. Ted Prince’s research highlights the connection between cognitive biases and managers’ decision-making abilities, which can negatively impact their firms’ profitability. Leaders who focus on their performance rather than leading people tend to micromanage, which erodes trust and crushes innovation. The “illusion of control” bias leads to overestimation of influence and poor decision-making, while the “status quo” bias impedes innovation. Innovative people require special handling, and servant leadership creates cultures promoting and nurturing innovation. Firms must encourage employees to grow and welcome their ideas while empathetic leaders must focus on the well-being of their employees.

Zappos’ Customer Service Triumph

Zappos has become an epitome of excellent customer service, driven by the company’s culture and beliefs. The founders aimed to provide an unmatched retail experience to customers, setting a new standard in the industry. Their focus on customer satisfaction is reflected in the rigorous training of phone representatives who engage with customers until their needs are met. Despite the challenging demands of this approach, Zappos’ representatives follow through on customer requests and solve their problems to maintain their satisfaction. Invariably, providing excellent service improves customer loyalty and generates a high return on investment. The importance of customer service goes beyond the investment in finding new customers since exceptional service builds lasting relationships that retain customers and convince them to pay higher prices. As such, it is essential to have a happy, motivated staff, and employee empowerment is key to this approach. By prioritizing culture fit during hiring and skills training, firms can maintain a sound work culture, receive better customer feedback, and attract new customers.

Leading through Serving

In times of crisis, Next Jump employees in New York contributed 10% of their paychecks to assist out-of-work hourly workers. At Next Jump, serving others is crucial in the workplace culture. According to the book, leading by serving helps an organization achieve sustainable success. Acts of kindness resonate deeply and could attract potential clients. Businesses can take advantage of free publicity via social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook. By connecting with the community, organizations can create a competitive advantage and strengthen their brand through positive word-of-mouth.

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