In business, we think of generous leaders as those who provide a way for their people to share materially in the success of the company, through raises, profit sharing, or a bonus system. All of this is good, but they are only part of true generosity. Truly generous leaders share the wealth on many levels. For example, they are quick to give others credit for their good efforts and new ideas. They’re also generous with their knowledge, sharing information with those who need it and teaching others around them how to do what they themselves do well. They are generous with their faith in people; they tend to assume best intent (although they are not naïve) and believe people are generally innocent until proven guilty.
Perhaps most important, they are generous with power. The generous leader, having provided the information necessary for success, gives people the authority and autonomy to act on that information. A leader who is fully generous shares both the power to make decisions and the responsibility for dealing with the consequences of those decisions. She shares the resources necessary for people to recover from mistakes and failure. Finally, she is generous with feedback. She takes the time to notice what her staff is doing or not doing, think about what’s great and what’s not, and share with them her observations.
Research has shown again and again that what employees most want, and what most effectively creates a committed and productive workforce, are things like appreciation, interesting work, being included, being trusted, having opportunities for individual growth, and flexible schedules. In other words, they most want their leaders to be generous with acknowledgement, responsibility, information, trust, and openness to new ways of working. And fortunately for leaders, that sort of generosity is possible in good and bad times.
Are you a generous leader?
Excerpted from Leading So People Will Follow by Erika Andersen.