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Give It First or Pay It Forward?
Servant leadership snuck into my life while I was trying to figure out what all the fuss was about networking. I had met people who lived it out in my life before I ever knew its name.
Before I'd ever learned how to network, I owned (and still own) a small boutique specialty IT firm. Prior to that I was a geek's geek. I can still geek out all over anyone who wants to be sure I know about technology. As my firm struggled to grow from a one-horse company to expand nation-wide and eventually world-wide, I quickly became aware of the need for business development and a balanced company.
Origin of Journey to Servant Leadership
So, I read a great book by a young man like myself named Keith Ferrazzi. His book Never Eat Alone has forever changed my networking life and given this recovering geek a huge new understanding and appreciation for the power of networking. I started at networking out of selfish needs and soon found out that Nubian truth that all professional networkers know. Really, it is as basic an understanding as they get when it comes to the real power of networking and yet it wasn't obvious to this recovering geek. That truth simply stated is "give first and it will be given unto you..." Giving without any concern for reward is the foundation of Servant Leadership. Only, I didn't discover its name immediately.
As I moved out from the shores of geekdom toward this vast unknown new world of untold wealth and riches, I soon discovered that there were some very powerful networkers I would need to meet. Names like Christine Spray and Ronnie Sanford and Louis Gonzales and Don Newell sprang up. New to networking I fumbled and stumbled upon the shores of discovery like a blind rat trying to get an audience with these famous networkers. I soon realized that I had to offer more than I did.
LinkedIn and Social Media
In this weakened geeky state, noone would have valued me and I would have really nothing to offer most people I would meet. I discovered this when I joined LinkedIn, a social networking site and found that I could only muster 20 or so connections. That was it. My small network didn't have any value readily visible and I knew that in order to network properly I would have to do something about this. This began my journey through the woods of social networking. I began to use every extra moment to study and explore this brave new state within the new world of networking for me.
Luckily for me, my small IT firm was growing a steady number of SEO clients and this gave me unique tools to navigate this new social networking country. I realized that although on-line, LinkedIn and other site were just like off-line networking events where you take a bunch of cards and try to meet as many people as possible. But, it had the added benefit of being a search engine which meant that somewhere along the path I would find the secrets of moving to the top of results and the treasures of increased exposure. I applied what my firm had learned in the wide world of Search Engine Optimization to this new niche and found it very compatible. This allowed me to leverage myself limitlessly and my network grew geometrically.
Real Value Mountain
Had I stopped there, the trip would have been a waste of time. Next was the mountain of real value. I am sure that for some my mountain wasn't the same as others. But, I had to generate revenue from all of this learning and growing or my effort was in vain. That is what I began to do. We can now say that we have added millions to our companies monthly revenue using social networking.
But, I had only just reached the proverbial Mississippi River of my new world of networking. Sure the trip had begun to be valuable and add meaning to my life, but I was just about to spread my wings across the Western frontier in search for the fabled Gold territory of Servant Leadership.
Christine Spray taught me and continues to teach me the subtle values of Servant Leadership. She gave into my life massively and with visible limits. She introduce me to lists of bankers, and business people. She invited me to groups she networked with and open networking events. She also introduced me to others practiced in the fine art of networking and the liberal application of Servant Leadership.
Amongst all of those I met through Christine were Katie Demarest, Stan Marts, Dave Guerra, Louis Gonzales, Don Newell, Ronnie Sanford, and many many more.
Even though I was learning about this secret art called Servant Leadership as it applies to networking, I had no idea what it was called until I met Stan Marts and Dave Guerra and was introduced to the CEO Netweavers Houston group. It was here that I learned the name for this art of war, this jitsu of business, this tao of success. Then I was made aware of the many fine applications in leading enterprises, and managing projects, and helping others. It was thanks to these and many more unnamed that I learned that the real power in networking is in netweaving and helping others without any regard for gain perfectly secure in the fact that wonderful results would come of the giving.
Now, Servant Leadership grows as the breadth of my network and my networking experience grow. Now, I spend most of my time in 1on1s with those I have met at InHouston mixers or through other networking opportunities. As I get to know the people I meet for 1on1s I introduce them to like-minded networkers and beneficial connections in my network.
What is your Servant Leadership or Give It First networking experience?