Vern Dosch, Vice President of Legatus’ new Bismarck Chapter which chartered October 22, is an ardent proponent of servant leadership. As president and CEO of National Information Solutions Cooperative, a technology company headquartered in North Dakota, Dosch, 66, credits that philosophy with attracting and retaining its talented workforce.
“If you take care of your people, if you invest in your people, if you’re empathetic and compassionate and create that type of a trusting environment, people will come and people will stay,” said Dosch, who wrote about his company’s cooperative business model, servant leadership, and shared values in his 2015 book, Wired Differently.
Dosch will share some of the lessons and insights he has obtained over 44 years with NISC when he addresses the 2020 Legatus Summit as a featured speaker. He recently spoke with Legatus magazine.
What are you going to be speaking about at the Legatus Summit?
My talk is really going to be about two main topics: One is just my own Catholic journey.
The second will focus on what it means to be a Catholic in the work environment, specifically a Catholic as a servant leader.
What is a servant leader?
There is this vision or persona of the CEO as the smartest guy or gal in the room who has to be up on all the topics and an expert on every facet of the organization. At NISC, we have about 1,400 employees, customers in all 50 states, diverse products, and a very diverse workforce. I’ve really come to understand that the role of the CEO isn’t to be the smartest person out in front, but to create an environment and culture where people can grow and thrive. So for me, my role has become more of a facilitator, more of a servant to the talent that we have in this organization — which can create an environment that will cause really good, smart people to come here and stay here.
How does the servant leader model benefit your company?
Particularly with the current generation [of employees], it isn’t just about money. They want to work for a place they believe in. They want to work for a CEO, a management group, and a board of directors that they can trust. That is just as important as their wage. Don’t get me wrong. You’ve got to be competitive, but creating an environment where they feel empowered and appreciated is important.
How does your Catholic faith inform your approach as CEO?
My Catholic faith teaches me humility, compassion, and the importance of taking care of others. In this line of business, traditionally all the focus is on the bottom line of the organization and returning shareholder wealth. But for us, the philosophy is to create an environment, encourage people to stay, earn their trust, and serve them so that they understand you’re willing to invest in their career and you’re willing to invest in them personally.
Every place has a mission statement, but if you were to walk through the halls of NISC and you asked people to describe the major motivation of this organization, they would tell you, “Do the right thing always.” For me, “do the right thing” is the basis of my Catholic faith.
What have been your impressions of Legatus?
My biggest surprise was when I walked into our first chapter meeting and saw the other people who were there. I was like, “What? I’ve known you in the community for all these years, and I didn’t even know you were Catholic.” It’s just been an extraordinary experience and allowed me to build some relationships with people who I had known casually for years, but didn’t really know that we shared the same Catholic faith. Legatus has been one of the most affirming things that I’ve been involved with in terms of strengthening, affirming, and encouraging my own Catholic faith, and for that I’m just so grateful.