There’s an old saying that says, “If you think your work is beneath you, you will soon be beneath your work.”
Booker T Washington was one of the most significant figures of humility that we have. Shortly after he became head of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, he walked past a wealthy family house. The woman of the house, assuming Washington was one of the yard workers her husband had hired, asked him if he would chop some wood for her. Professor Washington smiled, nodded, took off his coat, and chopped the wood.
When he carried in an armload of wood into the woman’s kitchen, a servant girl recognized him and rushed to her mistress to tell her his identity. The following day the women appeared in Washington’s office. Apologizing for her mistake, she repeatedly said, “I did not know it was you I put to work.”
Washington replied with generosity, “it’s entirely all right, madam. I like to work, and I’m delighted to do a favor for my friends.” The woman was so taken back by his manner and his willingness to forgive that she gave a generous gift to the institution and persuaded many of her wealthy friends to do it also. In the end, Washington raised as much money for the Institute from this one act of chopping wood as he did from any other fundraising event!
A great leader has a willingness to serve others even at the expense of themselves.