true lightThe 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 truthEveryone has a story to tell and a message to share
There’s little for me to gain by sharing with youGenerosity isn’t a zero-sum game; everyone can win
My circle is small; I decide the worthiness of those admittedNo circles or double-secret passwords needed; inclusion rules the day
I need to protect my special messageCredit 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

 

Jane Perdue
Jane founded Braithwaite Innovation Group, a professional development firm dedicated to redefining power, performance, and connection @ the intersection of the art of leadership & the science of business. BIG works with individuals and organizations to create cultures of constructive dissent, respectful irreverence, unrelenting empathy, character-based leadership mavericks, and unparalleled performance. Connect with Jane on her LeadBIG blog, Braithwaite Innovation Group or @thehrgoddess on Twitter.
Jane Perdue

@thehrgoddess

Leadership futurist. Challenges stereotypes, sacred cows, gender bias & how we think about power. Chocolate, TED, writing, kindness, both/and & shoe lover
@c4womenchas is sure doing some good stuff! #chs http://t.co/2Vw0zEC0dQ TY @katiewest230 for a great article! - 2 hours ago
Jane Perdue

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