Serving Yourself and Others at the Same Time


“You have two hands. One to help yourself, the second to help others.”
—Audrey Hepburn

The phrase “servant leader” brings to my mind images of Mother Teresa feeding the hungry or Susan B. Anthony pioneering women’s suffrage. But in actuality, there are servant leaders everywhere among us—especially at NAWBO.

That’s because while we all want to create businesses that are profitable so we can enjoy things like a nice home, travel, pay for our kids’ college tuition and a secure retirement, the greatest creators, innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders think bigger. They have a greater purpose. They realize they can serve themselves and others—at the same time—by using their greatest skills and talents. Here’s why:

  • The best way to leave a legacy is through service: After you are gone, people will remember how many lives you touched and people you helped, not how much money you made.  
  • Focusing on serving others is more profitable than focusing on profit: The best way to make money is to figure out someone’s problem, need or desire, and then create something that addresses it.
  • People change by serving others, so they want to do even more: When you build a business around serving others, not only will you change people’s lives, you will also change your own.
  • It’s the most fulfilling way to run a business and live life: Whether you’re an entrepreneur who’s reached the million-dollar mark or just starting out, living your life focused on serving others is fulfilling and gives you and your business a better chance of flourishing. 

This concept of servant leadership—first introduced by Robert Greenleaf in his 1970 essay “The Servant As Leader”—is where leaders upend the power pyramid to put others’ needs before their own. Sound familiar? As women, we are natural givers and nurturers. Surveys show we are more likely to care for loved ones in times of need, reinvest what we earn into our families and even give financial assistance to friends and family. In business, this translates into giving back to community causes we care about, whether it’s contributing time or money to a non-profit or serving on a corporate board, in public office or even in the military reserves.

Again, there are servant leaders everywhere among us. Are you one of them? Are you successfully serving yourself and others at the same time? Or are you looking to get started or do more? If you answered yes to this last question, I want to leave you with a few thoughts on how you can get there.

According to a recent Entrepreneur article, there are six main principles to servant leadership that you can put into practice to transform your life and business. They are:

  1. Empathy: Understand and look for ways to share in the feelings of your employees and customers. Give them the benefit of the doubt and assume good in them. When people know you care about them as a leader, you start to build trust.  
  2. Awareness: Have strong awareness of what’s going on around you. Have a deep understanding of the effects your decisions and behaviors have on others.
  3. Building Community: Build a community where your employees and customers can thrive. Put yourself to the purpose of others, and in doing so, you will thrive.
  4. Persuasion: Instead of directing or coercing employees to follow orders based on rigid hierarchy, rely on persuasion and collaboration by engaging in dialogue. 
  5. Conceptualization: Focus on the big picture. Empower your employees to handle daily matters, freeing yourself to dream a better future for them and the company. 
  6. Growth: Care passionately about the growth of your employees. Believe that if you create the right values and culture, normal people will do extraordinary things.  A leader’s job is to push people to be the best version of themselves by caring for them deeply. 
headshot of Jeanette Armbrust

— Jeanette Armbrust

NAWBO National Board Chair
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