Generous leadership assumes people:
- Have good intentions
- Are making a good effort
- Want to deliver their best
What is Generous Leadership
Generous is defined as noble or kindly spirit, liberal in giving, openhanded.
Please add open hearted.
A generous leader opens her heart to those around her. It costs nothing and returns plenty.
Two vignettes demonstrate the difference between open hearted generous leadership and closed hearted leadership.
People like working for Stephanie. Three years into her role, she won the company’s Best Workplace Culture award. She is especially strong in the areas of employee engagement and developing people. Her employees say she helps them solve problems versus solving problems for them. She gives of herself generously. She manages poor performance swiftly and well. When possible, and it’s usually possible, she does so with care and compassion.
Stephanie’s organization gets stuff done. She excels in creating organization processes and procedures to ensure operational excellence. While she thinks better inside the box than out, she encourages creativity and innovation. Her employees live and breathe continuous improvement, not as a program but as a way of being. The CEO appreciates Stephanie’s positive attributes. It’s a pleasure and easy for him to manage her, most of the time.
Stephanie’s strong suit isn’t visionary leadership. She’s not great at seeing the future as it’s unfolding and meeting it proactively. The CEO is frustrated with her in these situations. His heart closes and he lets it show.
Not Generous Leadership - Vignette 1
When Stephanie presents her long range vision and strategy, the CEO snaps back.
You’ve had 3 months to come up with this. You hired a consultant to work with you and your team. Your vision sounds like a promise to cure world hunger. It doesn’t paint a clear achievable picture of the future. If people don’t know where you’re going why would they follow?
The threat alarm in Stephanie’s brain goes off. Flashing red lights and screaming sirens trigger her flight fight freeze response. Stephanie’s brain seizes. She utters a response but later can’t recall what she said. After her fear response settles down, shame and humiliation set in. Worry follows. Flight is next. Stephanie wonders if she should be looking for a new job.
Generous Leadership - Vignette 2
After the meeting, David, Stephanie’s peer, reaches out to her with an open heart. He offers to help her craft a more precise and compelling vision. He recommends several books and podcasts that helped him along the way.
David’s offer acknowledges Stephanie’s good intentions. She wants to give this her best effort and deliver good results. She accepts David’s invitation and recommendations. She asks if he’s willing to discuss the books and podcasts with her. David opens his heart further. He and his wife, chief strategy officer at a nearby medical institution, invite Stephanie to dinner. It becomes a 3-way conversation about vision and strategy.
Stephanie presents a more compelling vision to the CEO, her peers, and her team. She has also grown her capabilities to do so again in the future.
Three open hearted generous leaders made this happen.