In the soul of an ecosystem builder lives a servant leader working for systems change.

As I recently wrote, society needs ecosystem builders now more than ever to help communities rebuild and recover. There’s an urgent need and opportunity for ecosystem builders to step up to the challenge and lead recovery efforts. But, there’s a special kind of ecosystem builder who we need most.

I’ve met and worked with ecosystem builders in many disciplines, roles, and capacities at both the local level in my community and at the field level nationally. Through the years, I’ve noticed that the ecosystem builders who I admire and respect the most share certain qualities — and it is these ecosystem builders that we urgently need.

A Different Mindset

Ecosystem builders can be found working in a wide variety of disciplines and fields. They might work in local, state or federal government, a university, an economic development agency, a chamber of commerce, a small non-profit organization, a large corporation, or more directly in some kind of entrepreneurial support organization. Ecosystem builder might be part of their job title or job description, but often it is not.

There’s more to being an ecosystem builder than a job title and supporting entrepreneurs. I’ve come to believe that the really impactful ecosystem builders have a different approach, a mindset that sets them apart. In my conversations with ecosystem builders all around the world, I hear this often — that there is a mindset, an approach that many ecosystem builders admire and respect the most in their peers. These are people that may not even have anything in their job description about ecosystem building or supporting entrepreneurs but they do the work because it is a calling, a mission, a higher purpose.

I think of these people as ecosystem builders with the soul of ecosystem building. They are distinct from others because it’s in their soul. My friend Chris Cain said it well. “I think the distinction between a community mover and shaker versus an ecosystem builder is, there’s a part of your soul in it. A lot of us can’t see doing any other work. So regardless what organization we work for, we’re doing that connecting and bringing people together.”

Ecosystem builders with soul still continue to cultivate the ecosystem, even if they don’t get paid, because it’s who they are. They exemplify the give before you get philosophy. The motivations may vary but they share a common theme. They might be motivated by the belief that entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial ecosystem building is a way to make a difference in society. Some are motivated by their love to serve and connect people, or to empower generations that come after them. For others it might be a belief in people’s inherent dignity and their right to be able to pursue their passions and dreams. For others it might be about gathering people together to create collective work and collective action to make the community better.

Being vs Doing

The common theme in these motivations boils down to core beliefs, mindsets, and ways of operating in society. The real soul of an ecosystem builder is about ‘being’ versus ‘doing.’ We talk a lot about what ecosystem builders do, but not so much about the ‘being’ aspect of ecosystem building. In his book Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership, Joseph Jaworski writes of his quest to develop leadership, “It became clearer and clearer to me that the kind of leadership that could effect lasting change was centered around the being aspects of leadership.” I think this applies to ecosystem building equally well. The kind of ecosystem building that can effect lasting change is centered around the being aspects of an ecosystem builder.

Servant Leadership

Another common theme I see in ecosystem builders I admire most is the aspect of the leadership philosophy of servant leadership, in which the main function of a leader is to serve. Robert Greenleaf introduced the concept of servant leadership in his 1977 book, The Servant as Leader. In essence, servant leadership is serving others and serving something beyond oneself, a higher purpose. Ecosystem builders who have soul, whose work is centered around the ‘being’ aspects of ecosystem building, tend to exemplify servant leadership.

In the soul of an ecosystem builder lives a servant leader working for systems change.

Got Soul?

The need for servant leaders with integrity and soul has been growing for decades across all sectors of society. But, the acceleration of increased complexity and disruption has made this need critical. We need more people with the soul of an ecosystem builder — those servant leaders with a different mindset and approach — to be activated locally and globally. We need more ecosystem builders like the Unsung Heroes of Ecosystem Building, the hard-working individuals who give so much, yet often receive so little recognition for working behind the scenes.

Do you believe in connecting and collaborating to help others succeed? Do you believe in not being focused on gaining cash, credit or control? Do you believe in working to truly engage and include everyone? Maybe in your soul, you’re an ecosystem builder. The world needs you.

Article originally published on Medium.

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Jeff Bennett

Founder and Editorial Director at Ecosystem Builder Hub. Former/retired co-founder and President at StartupSac. Semi-retired ecosystem building writer.