21 POWER TO THE PEOPLE CHAPTER ONE WIRED DIFFERENTLY FOR SERVANT LEADERSHIP In a nook of the NISC Lake Saint Louis office, employees can pull a book from a shelf, sink into a soft chair and reflect on how to build a successful business, with advice from inspiring leaders: Good to Great. In Search of Excellence. The Speed of Trust. The Seven Pillars of Servant Leadership. NISC has a unique story of service and success, and in 2015, the company added its own edition to the shelves. Wired Differently, written by CEO Vern Dosch with retired General Counsel Wally Goulet and Tracy Finneman, tells about a cooperative culture that defies the stereotypes of the often-cutthroat technology industry. Dosch describes it as “a sugar-free chronicle of NISC’s highs and lows and a perspective on how a business, a leadership model and a workplace culture produce positive results in a competitive IT marketplace.” In many ways, Wired Differently describes a business built on a paradox — a nonprofit, cooperative company committed to “servant leadership.” “When you say ‘servant leadership,’ it sounds like an oxymoron,” says Goulet. “Leadership is usually top down.” But NISC is proving that the concept can work. “We believe in serving our Members, and we’re very collaborative as a management group,” he says. Important moments in its history illustrate elements of the cooper- ative model and servant leadership. For example, NISC formed in 2000 when two competitors merged. The company defended a Member in a lawsuit even though its contracts explicitly protected NISC from liability. Its Board declined a lucrative takeover offer. In each case, NISC’s leaders chose service to Members over short-term financial gain. By explaining the business philosophy at the heart of NISC, Wired Differently helps preserve the company’s culture. The book drew from blog postings Dosch wrote to employees in which he used anecdotes to explain NISC’s values and principles. Close to 10,000 copies have been distributed, including 5,600 sold in print, e-book or audiobook formats. All book sales go to the NISC Benevolence Committee, an employee-administered program to assist employees in need. Wired Differently inspired a capstone course called Practical Business Applications of Servant Leadership in the Gary Tharaldson School of Business at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. Dosch, Finneman and NISC leaders shared the cooperative principles and best practices. “Their message was just phenomenal,” says Kevin Fishbeck, Professor of Information Technology, who coordinated the capstone course, a required, advanced- level seminar that links theory to practice. Students learned about a management style that empowers employees to do their best for their customers. And the students were surprised to know about the national IT company across the river. “They didn’t know this was happening in Mandan, North Dakota,” Fishbeck says.