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Are You a Generous Leader?

Posted by Dr. Kathy Laster on 12/23/2014

Merry Christmas…the most wonderful time of the year! It is also arguably the busiest time of the year…parties, gift buying, family gatherings, social functions, preparing for time off, year-end duties, performance appraisals, strategic plans, bonuses, recognition, holiday greetings, and the list goes on! Despite the frenetic pace, thankfully most of us find a moment to get in touch with the true meaning of Christmas, the importance of faith in our lives and the spirit of generosity. As you do, we also encourage you to reflect upon the answer to this question, “Are You a Generous Leader?”

One of my favorite parts of celebrating Christmas is the gift of giving. I love to watch as others open my gifts to them. Experiencing generosity is very fulfilling to the human spirit and, no doubt, contributes to why many people look forward to this time of year. But, generosity need not be defined as just the giving of tangible gifts. And it need not be confined to Christmas time. There are many ways we can be generous as leaders during this season and throughout the year that have even longer lasting positive impact.

To answer the question of whether you are a generous leader, reflect upon how freely you give of these intangible gifts:

1. The Gift of an Abundance Mentality – There are two ways of thinking: We can believe that there is more than enough to go around or we can have the scarcity mentality. Either way we are right. The principal of abundance promotes the belief that not only is there enough to go around, and that the universe has room for us all to benefit equally, but also commands us to give away what we have. Remember John F. Kennedy’s quote, “To whom much is given, much is expected.”
a. Do you give abundantly of all your talents to your peers, your boss, your employees, your customers, and your company? The abundance mentality means freely sharing of our talents, time, approval, energy, and wisdom. It means building people up, nourishing relationships and helping others in any way we can because we believe that somehow, someday, it will all result in win-win situations.
b. Or, do you live by the scarcity principle, operating out of a place of fear in which you must be territorial and protective of what you have or others will get more than you or succeed before you do?

2. The Gift of Time - There is no greater gift than time. Why? Because it’s limited and we never have enough of it. It is our greatest gift. We all get this moment and that’s all we are guaranteed.
a. Do you spend time wisely and on the things that are most important?
b. Do you start with the important things first, while you have good energy?
c. Do you take time to think strategically about the future to ensure your efforts are prioritized correctly?
d. Do you give yourself the time to restore and re-energize when you need it?
e. Do you balance your professional and personal life to ensure you are living congruently with your values and minimize regret?
f. Do you behave respectfully of other’s time?

3. The Gift of Attention – What do children want most? Attention. Even negative attention is powerful. That doesn’t really change when we become adults! We see leaders fritter away this powerful motivator they have at their disposal. Ask yourself these questions about the attention you do or don’t pay to others in your leadership role:
a. Do you give your people regular feedback?
b. Do you communicate important information to others so they can weigh in and buy-in?
c. Do you invest in their development through consistent coaching and mentorship?
d. Do you give them opportunities to grow and do everything you can to set them up for success?
e. Are you failing to give attention to other’s positive behaviors and accomplishments? (The quickest way to get behavior to go away, is to ignore it!)
f. Do you spend at least 3:1 on the attention you give to praising and recognizing others versus constructive criticism?
g. Do you take the time to get to know your people on a personal level so they don’t feel invisible and that you truly care about them?

4. The Gift of Positive Expectations - People will often live up to our expectations of them. If a person feels we assume the worst about them, they will begin to adopt the philosophy that their efforts don’t matter.
a. Do you give your employees the benefit of the doubt or do you assume the worst about them?
b. Do you give them the latitude to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes?
c. Do you create an environment of trust and innovation or one of retribution?

5. The Gift of Receiving – We often find that leaders tend to have strong streaks of independence, and sometimes, will be resistant to receiving gifts given to them. Whether these are tangible gifts, or intangible gifts like the ones just mentioned, it can feel uncomfortable to be on the receiving end. Keep in mind that when leaders resist those gifts (or help) from others, we are denying other people the gift of giving and contributing. It is good to show our human and vulnerable side and, as leaders, makes us even more respected, more approachable and “real” to others.

Cristina and I wish each of you a wonderful holiday season with your families, both at home and at work. We hope you are able to take time to reflect upon the true meaning of Christmas. May you give (and receive) generously!

We invite you to share your ideas on ways to be a generous leader.


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