In our role as leaders we seek to inspire and motivate others. Our motive may not be selfish, but ultimately our goal is to gain something. When we are effective, we gain creativity, productivity, and efficiency. We gain respect, commitment, and loyalty.
But how do we get there? First we have to give. We can’t expect someone to provide us value without offering something in exchange. We give of our time and our talents. We give appreciation, accolade, and awards. As we’ve discussed in previous leadership lessons, our giving must be genuine, carefully considered and appropriate for the person and the purpose. For example, if we want to give accolade for a job well done, we should consider the recipient’s preferences for that accolade. Do they appreciate the spotlight, or would they prefer a private conversation? Would a thank-you note resonate? Or is a plaque on the wall better recognition?
How do we know the best way to give? We first give of ourselves. We give of our time, spending time to get to know our people. Who are they? What do they enjoy? What fuels them? What worries them? What are their strengths? What opportunities would they like to explore? This conversation has to be two-sided. If we ask people to open up to us, we must be willing to be open in exchange. Who are we? What do we enjoy? What fuels us? Worries us? What are our strengths? What opportunities do we want to explore? Some of the responses may be from our professional lives, some from our personal. That’s wonderful. All of the areas of our lives – personal, social, professional – blend to create who we are.
It can be intimidating to open up, to give of ourselves that much. It requires us to be vulnerable, perhaps more than we’re comfortable with. There is power in giving, though. We feel it when others give to us. We are grateful, sometimes honored, often humbled, when others give of themselves, their time, their talents, or their resources. Yet somehow, we forget that we too must open up and give generously. Our power as leaders comes not from authority, but from influence. Our influence is rooted in relationship, and relationships bloom when we give.
The leadership lesson? The gain that comes as a reciprocating effect of our giving cannot be purchased; it’s the gain of respect, of loyalty, and perhaps even friendship. When we give – generously, authentically, and without restraint – we actually gain.