When I started out in business, I thought that in order to be successful and “Get Ahead” I had to be aggressive about finding, keeping and getting more business. I had many business role models for this behavior both in person and via books, TV and movies (think Jerry McGuire).

The problem was, it was very hard for me to sustain an aggressive business attitude. I am not by nature good at telling people how great I am or why I am the best person to hire or talking trash about competitors. To be fair, some of this may be nurture as well—girls are told from a young age not to behave in certain ways. When they do, they are chastised and punished, often in obvious ways, sometimes in more subtle ways. Regardless of why I’m not good at it, I continued to listen to those who told me it was the only way to get ahead.

Then one day I was fortunate enough to stumble on a workshop about Servant Leadership. Initially I thought that this concept that focused on enriching the lives of individuals—serving others—was really only a good fit for non-profits, not successful businesses or business leaders.

Over time, and with more research, I came to find that many successful companies embrace the Servant Leadership model—and why not? Companies like Zappos, REI, Starbucks and AFLAC regularly top Fortune’s list of 100 Best Companies to Work For.  No one can argue that they aren’t successful companies with excellent profits and they all did it while embracing Servant Leadership as a corporate style.

What makes Servant Leadership so successful are the 12 Principles:

  • Listening
  • Empathy
  • Healing
  • Awareness
  • Persuasion
  • Conceptualization
  • Foresight
  • Stewardship
  • Growth
  • Building Community
  • Calling to Serve Others
  • Nurturing the Spirit—Joy

What’s interesting for those of us involved with BNI, is that it closely mirrors many of the organization’s principles and code of ethics; such as building goodwill and trust among members, or displaying a positive and supportive attitude. The list goes on…

Once I gave myself permission to stop trying to be “aggressive” in finding, keeping and getting more business and instead embraced the Servant Leadership principles of serving others, I found that my business became more enjoyable and less stressful. I didn’t feel like I had to work as hard to achieve the same (or actually better) results. Of course, in many ways, the concept of Servant Leadership has been in front of me since the day I joined BNI, all it took was a new perspective to help me see what was in front of me the entire time–Givers Gain.

To learn more about Servant Leadership, visit www.greenleaf.org.

PR Chick Jill Bode founded Designed Write Public Relations in 1998. Working with recycled bubble gum, string and duct tape, she managed to craft a cutting-edge, custom PR consortium that works with clients all over the world–including BNI Central Indiana.