Are you known for your generosity? What makes it so? Are you aware of when you’re giving? Or does it just happen naturally for you?
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My associate and friend Bill McLellan recently shared a really useful article on Linked-In: The Top 5 Leadership Soft Skills You Need to Empower Your Team, which I really enjoyed.
I commented that I had published blogs on 4 of them (embedded above), but not (yet) on Generosity. So I thought I’d make up for that here today.
I’ve seen generosity defined as “the quality of being kind and plentiful; the virtue of being liberal in giving“. Giving. Sharing. Leaning more towards giving than taking.
To the more “calculating”, it can be dealt with like a tactic in a negotiation. That they’d only “give” a few points less important to them, but perceived to be more valuable to the other party. So as to influence the possibility of winning something more important to them in return.
Is that how you’d like to be labelled? I shouldn’t think so. But greed and narcissism is all around. And sometimes the rush and exhilaration of the chase can abound, can’t it?
Generosity – a learned attitude?
Are we born generous? Or do we learn it?
To me generosity is an attitude. Something we believe to be true for us. Part of our outlook. A behaviour. I appreciate that it is largely imbued within our conditioning. And so I’m grateful for the environment I was born into. Acknowledging that for many this wasn’t the case. However, I’ve also learned that conditioning isn’t a life sentence. And that attitudes can be unlearned and relearned. As can generosity.
Yes, generosity can help us feel better about ourselves. And help us build confidence. I’ve learned that taking our eyes off ourselves, and placing them on others just works in the long run. “What goes around, comes around” resonates with me.
However, that is a belief. One that came about because, in the main, and over a period of time, it has proven to be true – for me.
I’m sure there will be many that will see this quite differently. Based on their journey and their (very real) experiences.
The saying goes “a fool and his money are soon parted“. In our context, that could suggest being generous for the the wrong reasons, right? Like wanting to raise popularity. (Dare I say “wanting to get votes”?) Popularity should never drive generosity.
I’m certainly not suggesting we need to give everything away. To end up with less.
I’ve found that gratitude helps invoke the “law of attraction“. And also that “givers get“. And that in doing so, we can also expect “the law of reciprocal obligation” to work in balancing this all out.
I’m sure you’ll agree with me that none of these can really work if we are stingy and self-righteous, yes?
Perhaps some of us still find ourselves not being as trusting of this balance being true?
Maybe we can practice bringing a balance into play between being naturally generous and “calculatingly so”? What if we set and shared such a goal with someone we know and trust and invite them to share their observations and feedback? On when we did and when we didn’t authentically use generosity?
Cost versus investment
If a cost is the expense we incur to procure or secure something, and an investment is to provide for something we expect in the future, then I’d see generosity as an investment. We can touch or feel or experience a good or a service. But we can’t be that sure about an investment, can we?
It may or may not play out to our expectations. I’m not suggesting we need to be “calculating” about the likelihood of being generous to pay off.
Generosity in Leadership
An old adage was “knowledge is power“. Today’s leaders are recognizing how much more “knowledge can empower” people to step up, take ownership and deliver outstanding results. And grow. Themselves. Your initiatives. The organization’s success.
I like to see empowerment as an indicator of trust and respect. Being generous in delegation gives your people the ability to step up and have a go. To prove to themselves, to others and to you what they are made of. People remember forever how you made them feel. Good and bad. Having a boss generously extend opportunities to us is something most of us will remember very fondly in our development, right?
Like when I left South African Breweries (now SAB Miller) to emigrate to Australia, we still had 3 weeks to wrap everything up. When I said goodbye to my boss to hand in keys etc, he said: “no, you keep the keys and the petrol card for the company car, and drop them off at security on your way to the airport when you leave. It’s on us. Have a great last few weeks”. Writing about that here proves to you just how much I valued and remember such an uplifting and generous gesture…. Do you think I’m a good ambassador for that brand name? You better believe it.
Of course you’ll always remain accountable, but as good leader, you’ll know what safety nets need to be in place so that mistakes and learning can’t cause carnage.
In a mentoring context, generosity of our time is such an important message to someone that they are worthy. Provided they are “fetch people“, and don’t squander or take your generosity for granted.
Generosity – so what?
We go through life (and work) by trial and error. Learning and figuring out what works and what doesn’t, as we go along, right? We keep practicing. Success comes from sticking to what worked. Albeit keeping an open mind to want to keep stretching the boundaries. So we know where the edge is.
Skills are like muscles. Practice maintains them and develops them. (Self) awareness is a key component to learning any skill. What if we were to look at generosity as a skill? And developed a strong awareness of where it fits and how it works for us? And then kept practicing it? Until it becomes an unconscious competence for us?
Who knows, next thing people might just be labelling you to be one of those sought after leaders that have generosity?
Bill McLellan says
Wisdom shared is generous and being generous describes the act of generosity which is what you are Heiner. Thank you for taking the time to reflect and share this insight.
I am reminded of a quote from Mahatma Gandhi :
“The fragrance always remains in the hand that gives the rose”