By Ray Luther, Executive Director, Kelley MBA Program
We must give to receive - advice fundamental to human nature. Giving is good for us mentally, physically and spiritually. Giving also provides a foundation so our relationships can flourish. We all give in our own unique way, and most of us find happiness in the practice of giving. Our investment in others is an investment in us.
But when the subject of networking comes up, all bets are off. Suddenly words like fake, inauthentic and sales-y come top of mind. This is interesting because networking, at its core, is about give and take within a relationship. As this relationship develops mutual benefit might be found. This relationship exchange is a wonderful way to educate yourself on any number of subjects while delivering value for others at the same time.
Servant leadership is a philosophy which might be well applied to networking. The core principle is serve first, then lead. Leadership emerges from the act of serving others, and is discovered to be another way to serve. And the best test of servant leadership - do others grow as a result of your service to them? An amazingly simple yet powerful statement of leadership impact.
What if we applied the principles of servant leadership to networking - servant networking? If we served first, then networked. What if in the act of giving of ourselves we discovered a way to serve someone is make a network connection for them? Or provide suggestions to help them grow which they might have missed? Could this mental reframe of networking allow us to recognize it for all of the benefits we bring to others, and ourselves, vs. the constant negative perception that so many have?
Personally I think it can. I believe if we consider all the good we can deliver through the practice of servant networking more of us would actively engage. How can I be so confident? Because I see plenty of examples around me. Here are just a few of the great ones in my network:
Monique Valcour - As I watch Monique’s engagement on LinkedIn I see professional curation as a result of her personal expertise. Through this active curation she builds her network’s competency in a very specific way. Monique takes the time to share relevant content that I learn something from every day. Monique actively gives through this process and serves others as a result.
Dustin McKissen - An avid storyteller and blogger, Dustin shares his experiences to motivate and inspire others. Dustin leans into any relationship to give more than he can ever expect to get right up front. He did this with me and others in my network. He’s built an amazing community of followers on LinkedIn in a very short amount of time through service networking.
Eric Johnson - A close friend that I’ve worked with for years, I see Eric servant network every day. His passion is helping young leaders succeed and he gives his time and energy accordingly. Eric wants to know what drives those he works with on an individual level, based on their purpose and values. As he learns this he finds unique ways to give which can only be accomplished from a foundation of trust.
Glenn Leibowitz - I’ve only known Glenn a short time, via LinkedIn, but I’m blown away by how much he gives in a relationship right up front. His passion for writing has spilled over into a very well produced podcast - Write with Impact - educating so many with a similar interest. The personal time, money and investment to make this happen has an immediate service-based impact.
My point is there are many great examples of servant networking all around us. The trick is noticing these acts of giving and appreciating them in the moment. The practice of giving is also the practice of networking - through service to others. The more you build comfort with this concept the better network you can build - one based on a foundation you can feel good about.
“Servant Networking” was originally published on Linkedin Pulse on September 16, 2015.