Paying It Forward with Servant Leadership



Tulsa Joins the Movement

Like many US cities on the rise of comeback Tulsa, OK has joined the movement in unique way to help rebuild the city. Recently, philanthropic ideas are booming, and the city has just finished accepting applications for the Tulsa Remote program. The program will pay remote workers $10,000 to move to Tulsa, for a year.  Including a hefty stipend, the Tulsa Remote program will offer several striking incentives, including a membership to the 36 Degrees North co-working space, up to three months of discounted rent in a furnished apartment in Tulsa’s Arts District, plus plenty of social programming, events, and community-building opportunities to help workers get acquainted in their new city.

This program is part of a series of efforts to attract new talent to the area spearheaded by the Tulsa-born George B. Kaiser founder of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, a $3.5 billion charitable endowment that is devoted to addressing poverty in Tulsa and creating a more vivacious city. The foundation also works with Teach for America to bring teachers to the city and has been sponsoring a fellowship for artists.

In the case of Tulsa, the city wants to attract bright individuals to help diversify Tulsa’s growing entrepreneurial community and public spaces.  Just this past summer, The Gathering Place a much-anticipated $465 million park, which comes with a hefty $100 million endowment for maintenance and family programming, has been funded again by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, with an assist from other donors. Mr. Kaiser has devoted much of his philanthropic energy towards addressing the intergenerational poverty in Tulsa, to make sure every child no matter the demographic has a fair and equal opportunity to learn and grow. The idea is that this is democratic space in a sea of red that can bring families together for one common goal, the good of each other, thus the community. 

Many companies worldwide such as Starbucks and Marriot International are changing their attitudes towards how they do business and have been interpreting what makes philanthropic energy so important to the community they do business in. It comes down to servant leadership. The idea that as a team, a company and a family, we are all in this together. Whether or not you realize it, as individuals we live, work and breathe life into our own community’s every day. For a company, this means that the leader exists to provide guidance and direction, but the employees are empowered to make decisions on their own. The leader looks for opportunities to help others instead of having others help them.


Spherexx Empowers Employees Through Pay It Forward

Becca Wilson, Owner of Spherexx, a Webby award-winning software development and advertising agency, based in Tulsa, OK instills this philosophy at the heart of her company. Becca, also a native to Tulsa and her team have been so inspired by the phenomenal things going on in Tulsa that Wilson awarded each employee $1,000 in gift cards to Pay It Forward back to the community. It was all based on the employee’s decision to chose whom they felt was in need. This idea built upon the philosophy and set of practices, that servant leadership enhances the lives of individuals, produces healthier organizations and in due course shapes a more unbiassed and kind world.

Wilson says, “Servant leadership is not a natural phenomenon and must be nurtured, encouraged, and constantly reinforced.  Focusing on helping others in your organization succeed versus focusing solely on your own success is a learned skillset. It requires “buy in” from each and every employee for it to be a foundation for the company to build on. The beauty of our pay it forward model is that we put $1,000 in the hands of our employees and they must decide whether to spend the money on themselves or give it to someone else.  If they decide to “invest” it in someone else, then they begin the wonderful experience of SEEKING the best place to invest. This makes you look at your surroundings and the people you interact with in a completely different light.”

Currently, Tulsa just meet its goal for $1.1B in new developments 2020, a goal attained two years early. For one of the last major cities in the US to go through redevelopment, Tulsa is on the rise and this has created over 5,000 new jobs within the community. Old buildings are coming down to make way for new living and working spaces to satisfy the demand of new major business recruitments moving to Tulsa. It is this infectious inspiration of a growing city that made Spherexx want to get involved in Paying it Forward. We invite all local companies big and small to join in this idea of servant leadership because ultimately, we are all acting as servant leaders everyday and what better way to enhance our own community, but to give back.

The beauty of our pay it forward model is that we put $1,000 in the hands of our employees and they have to decide… do I spend this on myself or give it to someone else.  If they decide to “invest” it in someone else, then they begin the wonderful experience of SEEKING the best place to invest. This makes you look at your surroundings and the people you interact with in a completely different light. 

I believe the seeking process of this initiative fuels the servant leadership spirit that we want to fire-up in every Spherexx employee.  We certainly work to instill servant leadership through employee training, but “servant leadership” is an action.  It’s not just a lofty platitude we hang on a banner, it’s a hands-on “how can I help others” way of living life in and outside of the office.  Once they experience the power of serving others, then we actually walk out a principle we teach constantly at Spherexx with “serving others.”