He found his calling to serve others while doing time in a military prison.
In early 2001, Mr Matt Tenney, then a US Marine 1st lieutenant, was sentenced to 5½ years' detention for plotting to scam a bank in Los Angeles of nearly US$3 million (S$4m).
The 39-year-old told The New Paper in an interview on Wednesday: "Twelve months into my sentence, to find my own happiness, I read books and listened to audio tapes about mindfulness training, being aware of myself and my intentions.
"Six months later, I started to practise the principles with the aim of becoming a kind and compassionate person."
After his release in 2006, Mr Tenney spent eight weeks learning more about mindfulness training at a Buddhist monastery in the US.
He said: "At first, I wanted to be ordained as a Buddhist monk but I later realised that if I wanted to grow more in my personal development, it would be better if I worked in the outside world. So I left before I was ordained."
Mr Tenney, who is married and expecting his first child later this year, travels every week, mostly within North America, to talk about the message of mindfulness and servant leadership, which he terms as "leading by putting service to others ahead of personal ambition".
Mr Tenney is also author of the book Serve To Be Great: Leadership Lessons From A Prison, A Monastery And A Boardroom, which is available in libraries here.
He was one of the speakers at the Labour Movement Servant Leadership conference yesterday at NTUC Centre Auditorium at One Marina Boulevard. He is also helming a workshop today for the participants.
The conference is organised annually by the Ong Teng Cheong Labour Leadership Institute, and over 400 union leaders and labour movement activists attended this year's event.
The other speakers were Ms Chua Yen Ching, pioneer principal of Northlight School, and Mr Jason Wong, the man behind the Yellow Ribbon Project.
Mr Tenney said that inculcation of servant leadership principles among union leaders and management will benefit employee-management relations with more win-win situations.
He added: "Organisations should still maintain standards like focusing on excellence and making sure things are done properly.
"By focusing on serving and developing their employees, they will be more profitable in the long-term and more resilient during downturns by resisting trends such as laying off staff or cutting salaries."
This article was first published on July 24, 2015.
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