Generous Leadership

For several months I have been doing a lot of thinking about what leadership means to me. Over the years I've written pages upon pages about what leadership means to other people - brilliant people - but my own philosophy was still in development.

Here are the 2 things that I know that I know about being a leader.

  1.  Leaders are undivided. For them, an agile mind, a discerning heart, ready hands, and steady feet are integral.
    2. Leaders are generous. They’re unselfish with their time, talent, and treasure.

The thoughts, actions, and principles that stand behind those two sentences could fill an entire book - and maybe some day they will. But for today, here's an overview of why I believe them to be true.

Leaders are undivided.

You've heard the expression, "the left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing?" It's like that with leadership. It's not enough to take  a solely intellectual approach. Leading only with your heart can get you in trouble. Doing and not leading makes you, well, a doer not a leader. And standing firm is a good start, if you know what you're standing for. Leadership requires an undivided body with a seamless approach.

  • An agile mind. Effective leaders are lifelong learners. They are happiest when living in the tension between exploring new ideas and understanding what came before. They are quick to listen, slow to judge, and always ensure they can back up their observations with facts.
  • A discerning heart. Effective leaders know that emotional intelligence is just as important as traditional intelligence. Equally important is a moral compass that steers you through the jungle of ethical dilemmas that face leaders every day.
  • Ready hands. Are you willing to get your hands dirty? Does your team know they can count on you to be by their side with the going gets tough? No one expects you to do their job all the time, but they do expect that you'll have their back when it counts.
  • Steady feet. The going is going to get tough when you are a leader. If you're running around like your hair is on fire with every bump in the road, your team will have little faith in your ability to keep them on secure ground. Steady feet comes from doing the hard work before it is necessary. Build your foundation and stay the course.

Leaders are generous.

Effective leaders want to see those they lead succeed, and they will freely give of themselves to see it happen.

  • It means sharing time, knowledge, contacts, advice, the spotlight, opportunities and yes, sometimes money.
  • It means choosing a gracious response over a legalistic one.
  • It means being curious about those entrusted in your care. What makes them tick? What inspires them? What are their goals? What are their fears?
  • It means picking up the phone when you'd rather let it go to voicemail, giving a shoulder to cry on when you need one yourself, wishing them well when they leave you for that important opportunity.

As a generous leader, you know it stopped being about you the day you decided you wanted to lead people.

Being an effective leader is about being a Generous Leader. When all is said and done, it's about love. Not a word you hear too often in the context of business, and that is a shame. Be madly, crazy in love with the people you lead. Go out of your way to look after them and you will receive an immeasurable return on the investment.

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