Thursday, November 10, 2011

Are You a Generous Leader?

I was recently reading an article on successful team collaboration and it mentioned something about creating a “gift culture”
(http://businesstalentdna.com/pdf/Eight_Ways_to_Build_Collaborative_Teams%5B1%5D%5B1%5D.pdf) and it got me thinking about how many leaders would be surprised to know that the word “stingy” could accurately describe their management approach? Want to know if you would be considered to be a generous leader? Take this quick, very non-scientific quiz and find out...

Robert Greenleaf wrote an amazing leaflet, originally published in 1970 called “The Servant as Leader” and revolutionized the idea of leading from within, by supporting your team, instead of directing from on top. The benefits of being a leader who is in service and who gives to others generously tend to drive engagement (low maintenance) vs. obedience (high oversight). What they generously provide is coaching, time, responsiveness, freedom to fail, sharing credit and decision-making authority. They draw people in versus pushing them along. They have a healthy sense of humility because they put their followers first and see their job is to remove obstacles for the team, using their influence (as well as getting their hands dirty and owning tasks both low and high level as needed) to make life better for their team vs themselves. They operate from EQ versus EGO.


Take this self-assessment to determine whether your team would more likely coin you as a generous leader or stingy leader:

1. Do I routinely ask for feedback on how I can help them be more effective both day-to-day and in meeting their larger goals?

Generous leaders keep a pulse on the obstacles to team performance and spend diligent time on cutting through bureaucracy to get resources or eliminate unnecessary steps that impede productivity. They see their job as a facilitator of work, not just visionary in the corner office. Generous leaders show the team that they are heeding their advice and continually proving to them that they have a voice within the organization.

2. How often do I defend my team when they need me?

Generous leaders protect their employees from gossip and rumors. They assume everyone’s best intentions and take steps to fully understand issues before reaching conclusions or rushing to judgment. They remain loyal to the absent. They speak up in meetings where their team is being attacked and run interference.

3. When was the last time I gave someone else credit for something I did?

Generous leaders share the spotlight. They are not threatened by others’ receiving attention for accomplishing the work of the team and are able to share successes with their followers. Taking an abundance theory when it comes to praise, acknowledgement and recognition earns deep respect from followers. And it is important to note that the way generous leaders share the spotlight is not just indiscriminately across the board, rather they find out how members of their team like to be recognized. Some appreciate large scale spotlight while others just appreciate a quick, private bask in the sun between them and their leader.

4. How often do I dominate a meeting?

Generous leaders do not need to be the smartest person in the room. They do more listening than talking. They listen to others for understanding, instead of judging. They guide critical thinking via questions versus stating opinions. The most generous leaders are best at asking dialogue enriching questions. Instead of just the facts, generous leaders deepen interactions between themselves and their teams by being a catalyst for deriving meaning from flat data and getting people to communicate in a way where genuine understanding and connections take place.

5. Would my team say that I get more than I give?

Generous leaders always attempt to give more than they get. They put the needs of others first, instead of expecting everyone else to keep them comfortable. They respect the deadlines of peers and direct reports and don’t constantly change priorities on them or operate in chronic crisis mode. Generous leaders respond to messages from their team before the boss or client.

6. What values and expectations do I unconsciously communicate through my behavior?

Every leader should evaluate what message they are sending when they are emailing at
2am or asking for things from their people on the weekends. Even if they say it’s not important for the employee to respond and send it anyway, the damage is done. The expectation is set for what is acceptable and tells others that no matter how much you say you value them as people, your actions don’t show it. And chances are they won’t feel entitled to honor and protect that work/life balance if you don’t. People don’t feel safe when leaders contradict themselves. Check your leadership for contradictions. It’s the number one saboteur of generous leadership.

Although generous leaders appear flexible and supportive, they are not weak. They do not let people walk all over them or take advantage of their philosophy on leadership. They set direction, drive outcomes and hold people accountable by utilizing a giving approach vs. a getting approach.