Hoarding, or Sharing, the Light?

by  Jane Perdue  |  Self Leadership

The delta between their approaches was vast:  one devoid of generosity, the other overflowing with it.

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


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About The Author

Articles By jane-perdue
Jane is a leadership futurist and well-mannered maverick who challenges stereotypes, sacred cows, gender bias & how we think about power. She loves chocolate, TED, writing, kindness, paradox and shoes.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Chery Gegelman  |  12 Feb 2013  |  Reply

Love the story and the point you make Jane!

This quote is especially powerful! “If you have knowledge, let others light their candles with it.” ~ Margaret Fuller

Thank you for sharing!

Jane Perdue  |  12 Feb 2013  |  Reply

BIG, big thanks, Chery, for your kind words…much appreciated!

Mike Henry  |  12 Feb 2013  |  Reply

Great post Jane and an excellent contrast. We don’t have anything to lose by helping others win. Thanks for the challenging reminder. Mike…

Jane Perdue  |  12 Feb 2013  |  Reply

Mike, appreciate your kind words! Sharing does make the world a better place and in no way diminishes the giver.

Karin Hurt  |  16 Feb 2013  |  Reply

Jane, what a story. It’s particularly disturbing to see such behaviors in those working to lead transformation… although I have seen it as well. Thanks for sharing these important examples and lists.

Mary C Schaefer  |  17 Feb 2013  |  Reply

Really great post, Jane. Powerful examples and a powerful message.

David M. Dye  |  18 Feb 2013  |  Reply

Wow, Jane,

What a sad first story. I’ve observed or experienced a few transactions like it where people actively wanted to learn and be influenced by an oblivious, insecure, or ego-filled leader who missed a huge opportunity to expand their own influence and make a bigger dent in the universe.

As for the second story – what a powerful example of customer-focus and building influence. Assuming you do a good job, the client will remember her recommendation and likely look to her again in her expertise and you’ll certainly remember it and reciprocate when the moment arises.

When we add value to others, we win.

Thanks for this!


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