In an age when a high-profile CEO operates with secrecy and dishonesty, and a global retail giant is accused of firing people because they got cancer or miscarried (according to last year's brutal report in The New York Times), inspiration for a quote list must be pumped from a different water well.

Here's a hint: For years, I've been passionately preaching the gospel of a certain timeless and proven leadership philosophy as a clear-cut business case for developing organizationally healthy, engaged, and profitable work cultures.

And yet servant leadership is still one of the most misunderstood paradoxical terms in the business world. But it works.

Allow me to inspire your servant-leadership mojo to come out with these 25 quotes that will turn your hierarchy upside down (that's a good thing).

1. "The first and most important choice a leader makes is the choice to serve, without which one's capacity to lead is severely limited." -Robert Greenleaf

2. "The companies that survive are the ones that work out what they uniquely can give to the world--not just growth or money but their excellence, their respect for others, or their ability to make people happy." -Charles Handy in The Search for Meaning

3. "Leadership is not an affair of the head. Leadership is an affair of the heart." -James Kouzes and Barry Posner in The Leadership Challenge

4. "In the wired world of the 21st century, advancing shared values creates value." -James M. Strock in Serve to Lead

5. "The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant." -Max DePree

6. "You can have anything you want in life if you just help enough other people get what they want." -Zig Ziglar

7. "We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give." -Winston Churchill

8. "My research debunks the myth that many people seem to have . . . that you become a leader by fighting your way to the top. Rather, you become a leader by helping others to the top. Helping your employees is as important as, and many times more so than, trying to get the most work out of them." -William Cohen in The Stuff of Heroes: The Eight Universal Laws of Leadership

9. "The goal of many leaders is to get people to think more highly of the leader. The goal of a great leader is to help people to think more highly of themselves." -J. Carla Nortcutt

10. "Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

11. "Your rewards in life will be in direct proportion to the value of your service to others." -Brian Tracy in The 100 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws of Business Success

12. "A true natural servant automatically responds to any problem by listening first." -Robert Greenleaf

13. "The purpose of life is not to win. The purpose of life is to grow and to share. When you come to look back on all that you have done in life, you will get more satisfaction from the pleasure you have brought into other people's lives than you will from the times that you outdid and defeated them." -Rabbi Harold Kushner

14. "Servant leadership is all about making the goals clear and then rolling your sleeves up and doing whatever it takes to help people win. In that situation, they don't work for you; you work for them." -Ken Blanchard

15. "Authority: the skill of getting people to willingly do your will, because of your personal influence." -James C. Hunter in The Servant

16. "Of all the things that sustain a leader over time, love is the most lasting. The best-kept secret of successful leaders is love: staying in love with leading, with the people who do the work, with what their organizations produce, and with those who honor the organization by using its work." -James Kouzes and Barry Posner in The Leadership Challenge.

17. "The highest reward for a person's toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it." -John Ruskin

18. "We must be silent before we can listen. We must listen before we can learn. We must learn before we can prepare. We must prepare before we can serve. We must serve before we can lead." -William Arthur Ward

19. "Life's most urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'" -Martin Luther King Jr.

20. "If leadership serves only the leader, it will fail. Ego satisfaction, financial gain, and status can all be valuable tools for a leader, but if they become the only motivations, they will eventually destroy a leader. Only when service for a common good is the primary purpose are you truly leading." -Sheila Murray Bethel in Making a Difference: 12 Qualities That Make You a Leader

21. "It's not about trying to find something to help you be a more effective leader. It's about trying to be a better person. The other will follow." -James A. Autry in Practicing Servant Leadership

22. "Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are." -John Wooden

23. "The miracle is this--the more we share, the more we have." -Leonard Nimoy

24. "People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care." -John C. Maxwell

25. "Twenty-first-century leadership relationship dynamics are from the bottom up rather than the top down; from the outside in, rather than the inside out." -James M. Strock in Serve to Lead