The Generous Leader
What is your definition of generosity? When people hear the word many immediately equate it with something involving money such making donations. I don’t think that people immediately think about generosity and leadership. Merriam-Webster defines generous as, liberal of giving; characterized by a noble or kindly spirit. So with that definition, it opens up an entirely new opportunity for leadership and generosity.
Being generous is good for our mental health. In a study on how generosity affects the brain, they looked at two types of giving – Untargeted and Targeted. Untargeted is when you do things like make a donation, or some other general act. Targeted is when we know the face of the person we are being generous towards. While both types of generosity impact our feeling of altruism, targeted generosity also decreased the activity in the amygdala, the area the impacts anxiety.
If being generous means you are giving, here are things you can give as a leader:
When you are in a meeting or having a one-on-one conversation, where is your attention? Are you looking at your phone or smart watch or are you focused on those you are meeting with? We are all so distracted these days it’s easy to let our attention stray.
Being fully present, giving someone your undivided attention and truly listening is almost a lost art. Practice it. If you need to turn off your phone or take off your watch, do it. If you are meeting in person and can close the lid of your laptop do it. Not only will doing this help you focus, it sends the message to others in the room that they are important.
Obviously if you’re a leader with a team of people you spend a lot of time with them. You have meetings to discuss their performance and career aspirations, and coach them in their work. You can give your time in another way, which is being a mentor to others.
A mentor offers perspective, insight and encouragement. Mentors give their mentees the benefit of their education and experience to help develop the their knowledge, skills and abilities. The great thing about mentoring someone is that you will probably get as much out of it as the person you mentor.
If you want more evidence that mentoring is a good thing, for CEO’s in formal mentoring programs according to Harvard Business Review:
· 84% said mentors had helped them avoid costly mistakes
· 84% become proficient in their roles faster
· 69% were making better decisions
If you haven’t been a mentor, I highly encourage you to do so. It’s incredibly rewarding.
Strong leaders develop other strong leaders. I firmly believe this. I have a lot of clients in financial services. The highest honor a branch leader can receive is the award for creating other branch leaders. It shows that they are truly invested in helping others grow and growing the business.
So don’t be a leader that hoards talent. It doesn’t help you, the individual, or the organization. Yes, you will lose someone that is a top talent for you, and it might actually hurt your business in the short-term. But you will also be creating a legacy of other leaders.
As John Maxwell says, “Nothing speaks to others more loudly or serves them better than generosity from a leader.”