In the book, “The Road to Character,” New York Times columnist David Brooks performs an exploration into personal characteristics that lead to a meaningful life, as well as examples of historical personalities who have worked through character challenges marked by deep humility, pointing to some helpful themes that can be applied to service leadership.

1) Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. This subject will never get old. If there is one place to focus our energy, this is it. Gratitude is contagious and works wonders for any environment, both internal and external. It’s the elemental truth of service, of most other character attributes and of cultivating a rich life. If we are succeeding here as leaders, likely we are succeeding in creating transformative business and company cultures, the kind that brings out the best in others.

2) Success is not measured by career or sales numbers alone. These are worthy goals and achievements, but if we are to be wholly successful as individuals and companies, we must also develop our character alongside these pursuitsand encourage our company partners to do the same.

3) If we can transform ourselves, we can transform the world. If we can transform the world, we can certainly influence our company cultures in positive ways. Personal work may be the hardest work we will ever know. If we want to demonstrate true leadership and develop leadership in others, we will encourage the humility it takes to look inside and say, “What is the core issue that stands in my way? How can I overcome it?”

As usual, service leadership is not for the faint-hearted… but it’s not all so serious. In the midst of pursuits that challenge us deep down, there is still room for lightness and having fun along the way! We’ll get more into that in our next post. In the meantime, would love to hear about how you address character challenges and development in your life/organization in the comments below.