Leadership Generosity

2 06 2009
As I put out quotes each day on Twitter – most of you know I focus on a keyword. Today’s keyword was generosity and I was amazed by reflecting on it – how infrequently we see the word used these days. My reflection went deeper and longer when one of my new friends on Twitter @ianooy (Ian) thanked me for a quote and then asked me to explain it. After spending 15 minutes thinking about how to tweet back an explanation I decided to do a blog on it and what it meant for me. It may take me off my time line for launching my Twitterentrepreneur.com training by a day – but the opportunity to speak about this was prime!
Here is the quote
Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present ~ Albert Camus
I have long reflected on the whole issue of generosity as an important quality of leadership: observing and craving leaders who had it, and identifying those who lacked it. Here is the perfect opportunity to express my thoughts and beliefs on “Leadership Generosity”. I have many people, leaders, authors, bloggers who have sparked my reflection and post on this.

When we think of generosity, our thoughts usually turn to gifts of money or charity. In the context of leadership, there are many gifts that don’t have a monetary value, but whose value is priceless (sorry Mastercard).  These include:

  • Giving someone an initial chance and/or a second chance;
  • Giving someone the benefit of the doubt before judging; and
  • Giving others a reason to want to work with you.

Leadership Generosity entails giving others latitude, permission to make mistakes, and all the information that they need to do their job. It’s making sure they have the authority that goes with responsibility – it’s giving them due credit for their ideas. In a nutshell, all of this translates to generosity of spirit, a quality we admire in leaders.

Generosity, a word which derives from “of noble birth,” used to be associated with members of the aristocracy who, by virtue of their privileges, were expected to show generosity towards those in lesser standing. A leader too, by virtue of their position, and the power and privileges that they hold relative to those they lead, has the same expectations and obligations. A prime obligation is to lead with a generous heart, and to be guided by a nobility of mind. It is the habit of giving without coercion. A leader’s generosity has a positive spreading effect. Conversely, its absence can also have a series of negative consequences that, if a leader paused to reflect on them, may stop them in their tracks.

Most people seek to find real meaning in their work – they want to feel that they are a part of something bigger and something better. They want to know that what they do matters. That it makes a difference in the world. This has been such a motivation for me personally in building my own home based business.  A leader with a generous spirit understands this need, and connects the dots for people – the dots that help them see how the work they perform, no matter how small it may be in the scheme of things, has impact.  This is such a key component to building a network marketing business that lasts – truly serving others!

It brings me to the Albert Camus Quote ~ He said:

“Real generosity toward the future consists in giving all to what is present.”

How often, as leaders, we are so focused on future achievements, on realizing the vision of the organization, meeting and exceeding our goals – that in the process, we neglect the people who are there now. We can easily neglect our simple daily interactions with people today! We have a tendency to be too self-absorbed. We can become self-involved to the point where, without intending it, we exclude others; and we often only consciously notice that we have excluded them when they have become disengaged. Self-absorption prevents generosity. Once in a while, leaders must stop and ask themselves: Am I giving enough to the people around me – NOW?  Our generosity now has such an impact on our future!

While generosity in its pure sense seems altruistic, you may still get something back from it: surprise dividends in the form of a recycling of goodwill, a surplus of cooperation, and the sheer satisfaction of seeing another benefit from our giving of ourselves, our time, our attention, our knowledge, the very best that we have to offer those who cross our paths at work or life.

Here are some action steps to enhance our Leadership Generosity:

Give people a sense of importance and meaning

Consider what small actions you can take today to make people feel that the work they do is important, and that they themselves, as people, are important to your team. Help connect the dots for them and help them see how they can and have helped others

Give encouragement and feedback, not criticism

If giving frequent criticism is your style of management, consider some of these questions: Is your motivation genuine, or is it to gain points? Are you picking the right moment? Are you stopping to reflect how you might deliver the feedback while still honoring the other person?  As a leader, giving people the gift of not just our appreciation for good work, but our genuine admiration for their talents, is generosity of spirit at its pinnacle. This is the difference between saying to someone: “Great job” versus “That was pure genius;” or “I appreciated your help” versus “I couldn’t have done it without you.” When it comes to genuine praise, like the sun at high noon, give resplendently. When you see good work, say it, and say it from the heart, just as you thought it. Free up the thought, and let it breathe – let it fly out there in the form of generous words, and watch what you get back. Giving is ultimately sharing.

Give people visibility

Giving people visibility on your team is a special gift we can give to help others shine and grow. Knowing that your leader is representing us well to senior leaders and upper management in your organization is a high-octane motivator, and engenders fierce loyalty.

Know when to forgive

Martin Luther King said that “The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.” Consider how harboring vindictive thoughts, even though so compelling at times, is nothing but violence to oneself. A characteristic of a generous person is a total lack of resentment – it’s in effect being too noble, too big for that. Who do you need to forgive? What do you need to let go?

Share your knowledge and experience

Resolve to become a philanthropist of know-how. What knowledge, expertise, or best practices can you share with others as a way to enrich them? Share with no expectation of return!

Give anonymously

Real generosity of spirit is doing something for someone without their knowledge. I have had the pleasure of listening to John Jackson every morning for the last few months as a new leader in our organization and he ends each of his calls with this call for generosity – Do something for someone today that will really help without them ever knowing you gave that help.  That is real generosity!

Finally, take some inspiration from Walt Whitman’s beautiful words: “The habit of giving enhances the desire to give.” Giving, leading with generosity, being grateful are all like building a muscle. It requires practice and persistence – once it becomes habitual, you will emerge as a stronger leader.




3 responses

6 06 2009

Great stuff!

10 06 2009

Awesome post! Leadership is complicated and there’s a lot more to it than most people realize. It’s everything you said above, it’s leading by example, it’s knowing when to take a stand for someone in your organization and saying what needs to be said even if it is uncomfortable. Leaders inspire and push people to their true potential. It’s NOT easy but the truth is; In order to become successful you have to develop yourself into a leader and it’s not optional. With that said, thanks for your leadership Glenn!

10 07 2009
The Generosity Path Blog » Blog Archive » LEADING WITH GENEROSITY

[…] project manager for Gallup, who is now a global marketing entrepreneur and writes a blog called the Fast Growth Home Business Blog. It is not entirely clear why he is writing about organization leadership, however his insights are […]

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