What is True Greatness: Wealth, Power, or Success?

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Home > Articles > What is True Greatness: Wealth, Power, or Success?

 What is True Greatness: Wealth, Power, or Success?

Today's Manager
December 1, 2018

True greatness can be found in the kindness that allows us to contribute to the kinship in our corporate culture and a society that cares for each other.

More often than not, the trinity of wealth, power, and success defines greatness in the corporate world. Key performance indicators (KPIs) and milestones are measured in those terms. What is ‘climbing the corporate ladder’ if you don’t achieve more of the same in your career trajectory within a limited time frame? But, is that all there is to greatness?

The theme of this year’s Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM) campaign is “Be Greater”, which aims to get Singaporeans reflecting about the true meaning of greatness. It is about reminding ourselves that greatness lies beyond the traditional definition and that we can be greater than we are.

We are not the first to redefine success. Increasingly more of the wealthy and powerful don’t consider themselves truly successful because greatness lies elsewhere. They are talking about relationships, well-being, and societal impact. 1

Mr Warren Buffet, the Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway said at one annual meeting: “I measure success by how many people love me.” Quoting Mr Buffet, Microsoft co-founder Mr Bill Gates elaborated: “Warren Buffett has always said the measure [of success] is whether the people close to you are happy and love you. It is also nice to feel like you made a difference—inventing something or raising kids or helping people in need.” And at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, Former First Lady Michelle Obama said that for her husband Former President Mr Barack Obama, “success isn’t about how much money you make. It’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.”

In recent years, there has been an ongoing realignment of focus from end results to the process. 2 Wealth, power, and success fall into the end-result bucket. When someone has their eye set on the end result, the process becomes blur and neglected, and often frustrating and discouraging. In redefining greatness, we hope to get people focussing on the process—standing up for what is right, lending a helping hand, or just by making someone’s day through kind encouraging words. After all, it is through the process that one grows and becomes the successful person we each aspire to be.

Is Greatness Harder or Easier to Achieve?

The simple answer is both because most of it is in the mindset—flick that switch and start redefining greatness. Think about what you can achieve in one day—most likely not wealth or power—but you can surely make a positive difference in someone’s day. Over time in that journey to greatness, one could achieve much more beyond wealth, power, and success.

A person who has cultivated deeper lasting relationships along the way would have developed and internalised desirable values, most notably kindness and a disposition to always think beyond self and for others. For a company, it would have created a culture of synergy and kinship among colleagues. And for society, a more cohesive and collaborative workforce grounded in positive values and ethics must surely contribute to the goal of increased productivity.

Be Greater!
You can be greater by the kindness that is in you. You can contribute to the kinship in your corporate culture. You can co-create a society that cares for each other. Only a greater person can contribute to make a corporation great and co-create a greater society where wealth and power are used to help others succeed.


1 Lebowitz S, 4 March 2018. 12 rich, powerful people share their surprising definitions of success, Business Insider Singapore, https://www.businessinsider.sg/how-successful-people-define-success-2017-3/?r=US&IR=T.

2 Shikati C, 13 March 2018. Learn to focus on the process more than the results, The Startup, https://medium.com/swlh/learn-to-focus-on-the-process-more-than-the-results-419245011592.


​Dr William Wan is a Justice of the Peace and General Secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM). He was a senior partner of a regional law firm and a managing director of a psychometric company headquartered in the USA.


Copyright © 2018 Singapore Institute of Management

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Today's Manager Issue 4, 2018

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