I’d been troubled by an exchange I had witnessed at a small conference a few months ago. The conference leader was from an organization dedicated to transformation. During a break, a gentleman from another state approached the leader and asked if she would be willing to spend ten minutes with him at the end of the conference to share her insights and learnings from establishing the organization. He said he wanted to begin something similar where he lived.
In a tone I can only describe as haughty and condescending, the woman told him her work was unique, that only she was capable of sharing her particular message, and the concepts of creating something similar were beyond his grasp. Obviously crestfallen, he graciously thanked her for her time and walked away, head held low.
Contrast that exchange to one I experienced last week. A colleague rang me up to ask if I was available to speak at a workshop for executive women. She said the sponsoring organization had contacted her to be the speaker. When they described the content they sought, she said she knew she could deliver the talk but also knew she wasn’t the perfect one to do so…because I was. She said she wanted her role to be introducing me at the workshop. I was moved, touched, profoundly so.
One individual transcended ego, stepping into her power of altruism. At the other end of the continuum stood a woman firmly clutching the power of her position. A very black-and-white picture of focus on either “me” or “we.”
Generosity for Me
Generosity for We
|Only I have a unique insight into the truth||Everyone has a story to tell and a message to share|
|There’s little for me to gain by sharing with you||Generosity isn’t a zero-sum game; everyone can win|
|My circle is small; I decide the worthiness of those admitted||No circles or double-secret passwords needed; inclusion rules the day|
|I need to protect my special message||Credit may be nice, but why not freely share|
Where we sit on the generosity continuum is a matter of personal choice. Every day, a character-based leader consciously balances the conflicts between selfish and selfless behavior. Being totally selfish or completely selfless just doesn’t work. Effective leaders figure out and practice the delicate equilibrium needed to assess each situation and do what’s right to bring about the best outcome.
“If you have knowledge, let others light their candles with it.” ~ Margaret Fuller