The quotes that follow do not contradict that one overarching truth. In fact, they expound upon it. They are to be seen against the backdrop of servant leadership
Since I often use acronyms as memory devices, I will try my hand, heart, and head at this one:
G - Greatness begins with GOODNESS. God is good. God creates and emanates goodness. Without goodness, there is no greatness.
R - RESPECT precedes and follows greatness. The person who understands his or her own potential as a leader and exercises it has an extraordinary respect for the people he or she leads/serves. The servant heart beats with reverential respect for people made in the image of God and that includes self-respect.
E - EAGERNESS to EXTEND oneself in selfless service is a mark of greatness. The great man or woman takes the initiative to do and be more and to reach out to others. The great person does not wait for an invitation to act.
A - AFFECTION is active in the life of a great person. He or she knows and experiences the full range of human emotions, vulnerabilities, joys, and sorrows. The great person loves deeply, laughs heartily, weeps freely, and is never deficient in the area of affect. As the Servant-Model, Jesus exhibited what is is to be fully human, so every great man or woman is authentic in his or her humanity.
T - TENDERNESS marks greatness, for the great person is never a bully. The great man or woman leads by example, service, and love.
N - It is NATURAL, nothing phony or pretentious. The great person comes to greatness NATURALLY. It is not contrived or strained. It flows from essential nature infused with the love, grace, and power of God.
E - EFFORT is required in every area of character development and every human endeavor. A dream without effort is a fantasy.
S - SERVICE, though stated in several ways, is the true mark of greatness. Examine the lives of those whose legacies endure, and you will find this thread.
S - SACRIFICE is always a component of true greatness. Time, convenience, money, and sometimes even life itself is sacrificed on the path to greatness.
Finally, Jesus said that a great citizen-servant in His Kingdom, would look a lot like a child.
When did you ever see a little child who was not eager to help and serve?
Now, let us see what others say.
"No great man lives in vain. The history of the world is but the biography of great men." - Thomas Carlyle
"I can't believe that God put us on this earth to be ordinary." - Lou Holtz
"Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Recipe for greatness — To bear up under loss, to fight the bitterness of defeat and the weakness of grief, to be victor over anger, to smile when tears are close, to resist evil men and base instincts, to hate hate and to love love, to go on when it would seem good to die, to seek ever after the glory and the dream, to look up with unquenchable faith in something evermore about to be, that is what any man can do, and so be great." - Zane
"I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone." - John Fitzgerald Kennedy
" . . . I want it said of me by those who knew me best, that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow." - Abraham Lincoln
"If any man seeks for greatness, let him forget greatness and ask for truth, and he will find both." - Horace Mann
"The great man is he who does not lose his child's heart. " - Mencius
"Since most of us spend our lives doing ordinary tasks, the most important thing is to carry them out extraordinarily well." - Henry David Thoreau
"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." - Winston Churchill
"Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people." - Hyman Rickover
"Great crises produce great men and great deeds of courage." - John F. Kennedy
"He should sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lives a great street-sweeper who did his job well'" - Martin Luther King Jr.