We Scale Mountains For Generous Leaders

Giving Leads To Receiving“For it is in giving that we receive.”
                                        St. Francis of Assisi

Since my book was published last fall, a lot of people have done some incredibly kind and thoughtful things to help me.  What’s intriguing about this support is that it hasn’t only come from my friends and former colleagues.

Via Twitter, people I’ve never met, and who live all over the world, have written to tell me (in 140 characters or less) how they’re advocating for the book in their organizations.  Following a radio interview I did, the host offered to introduce me to several famous leadership authors he knows.  Another person e-mailed all of his business contacts and urged them to start reading my blog.  And this is a very small sampling of what many people have chosen to do for me.

While I have no clear explanation as to what has motivated all this generosity, I can tell you how it’s affected me.  When people take actions that help me, I always notice.  More importantly, I find myself thinking of the person (including all those people in my Twitterverse) and wanting to re-pay them in some way.  I’m not at all unique in my response; our wanting to reward kindness with kindness is universal.

I’ve come across two unique explanations for why giving leads to receiving.  One is practical and the other spiritual.

According to Arizona State University Professor Emeritas, Robert Cialdini, human beings live according to an ancient rule of reciprocity that’s buried in our DNA: “Feelings of future obligation made an enormous difference in man’s social evolution because it meant one person could give something (food, care) knowing it would later be repaid. All these millennia later, most of us still find it highly disagreeable to be in a state of obligation.  It weighs on us when we feel beholden.”

But according to author, Deepak Chopra, natural law more accurately explains why the givers amongst us are always rewarded.

“The universe operates through dynamic exchange,” Chopra has written. “Giving and receiving are different aspects of the flow of energy in the universe. And in our willingness to give that which we seek, we keep the abundance of the universe circulating in our lives.”

There’s truth in both explanations, I believe, and together they offer leaders profound insight.

When you give to the people you manage, they instinctively will want to give back to you.  When you share your knowledge, express your appreciation, ask about their lives and families, or give them a special assignment, they will remember it.  And when you head home early, they will stay late in order to finish a project or to meet an important goal – of yours.

I’ve discovered through my own leadership experience the same thing that organizations on Fortune Magazine’s “100 Best Companies To Work For” list have: the more you give to employees, the more they will be passionate about doing their greatest work.

But leaders beware, this is sacred information that must always be respected and regarded with care.  People can feel, and thereby know, when someone’s intentions are manipulative and inauthentic.  Consequently, whenever we give to others, says Chopra, “the intention must always be to create happiness for the giver and the receiver.”  

We must never succumb to the temptation of giving to another with the explicit goal of getting something in return.  Our senses pick up intentions like this, and a loss of trust by these means is virtually impossible to restore.

To be an effective leader in the 21st Century, the idea of giving to the people you manage must come from you naturally.  It has to be real.  And remember, the manner in which you give is almost always worth more to people than the gift itself.

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By Mark C. Crowley

Mark C. Crowley is the author of Lead From The Heart: Transformational Leadership For The 21st Century which has been taught in 11 American universities. He is a global speaker, leadership consultant and thought leader on the topics of workplace culture and employee engagement.