Leadership, Reward and Culture

by  Mike Henry  |  Self Leadership

There is an intrinsic reward that is received by the giver. We all know this is true. When you help someone who can’t possibly repay you, an immeasurable benefit, almost a force, provides benefit back to you. It may not come at the same time or in a specific sequence. Sometimes your good fortune or luck, your serendipity, comes from benefit you created for others years ago.

Think of the example of helping someone who can’t help you back or paying anonymously for someone’s meal. Even if no one ever knows, you know. And because you know, you benefit. When you pay it forward, you give what you’ve been given to help others.

Contribution Creates Margin

Every organization, family, team, community, society or people operates on a margin that exists between contributed effort and withdrawals made. You know when you’re in an organization or community of contributors. There is always margin. People are gracious and helping. There is room for error. People forgive quickly. Mistakes are tolerated, not encouraged. Accountability results from the shared benefit created by the contributors in the community.

Withdrawal Kills Margin

A team of takers is much less rewarding. Taker teams begin when any leader takes more than they give or rewards people for doing the same. In no time a chain reaction results. Both excesses, either withdraw or contribution are contagious. Excess withdrawal destroys; excess contribution creates. Eventually, just like the US social security system, excess over-withdrawal creates a toxic society that must either transform or bankrupt. Excess withdrawal results in bankruptcy.

You Get What You Give

People with influence on your team set the tone.  The positional leader is one of the tone-setters but not the only one.  As a leader you get what you give and what you reward. Your team’s culture will end up being the culture you promote.  Contribute and create margin.  Withdraw and bankrupt your team’s culture.  It’s up to you.

Have you ever been on a team of contributors?  Care to share a bit of the story below?  Those great stories energize people years later.  Just think back to the best teams you’ve ever been on and share a bit about the person or people who energized the culture the most.  Then, go and do likewise…

What’s Next? Please leave a comment below to join the conversation…

About The Author

Articles By mike-henry
Chief Instigator (Founder) of Lead Change Group and VP of IT for a mid sized technology company. Passionate about character-based leadership and making a positive difference.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Dan Rockwell  |  31 Jan 2011  |  Reply


I’m applying your post to the Lead Change Group. I’m still learning how I can give back to so many great people.

I respect you and what you are doing.



Mike Henry  |  31 Jan 2011  |  Reply

Thanks Dan, I’m excited about what’s happening in the group and in the leadership space.

Chad Balthrop  |  31 Jan 2011  |  Reply

Hey Mike,

Excellent post and spot on. There are quite a few posts and other resources that talk about the importance of HUMILITY in leadership. Your post illustrates how humility really works – true humility isn’t thinking highly of yourself or lowly of yourself, true humility isn’t thinking of yourself at all.

May we stop thinking like consumers are start thinking like contributors.

God Bless,

Mike Henry  |  31 Jan 2011  |  Reply

I appreciate your quote and tweeted it! “True humility is in not thinking of yourself at all.” Great reminder. Thanks!

Kelly Ketelboeter  |  31 Jan 2011  |  Reply


I think we all have experienced both sides of what you describe in some way, shape or form. It’s definitely disheartening to be part of team that withdraws and bankrupts the culture. It stifles creativity, engagement and ultimately results. The culture that is created is on where people focus on one upping their team members.

On the flip side, I have been blessed to be part of a culture where creativity and contribution are the focus. It’s a beautiful thing when these things come together. It’s invigorating, motivating, rewarding and fun. In last few years, the Lead Change group has afforded me these opportunities as well as the work with my business partner and friend Jen Kuhn.

The one thing that really struck a chord with me in your post is that, “As a leader you get what you give and what you reward.” All too often this what leaders seem to forget. One of a leaders most powerful tools is the example they set. People will follow your example, whether you want them to or not. You also point out the power of rewards. Rewards can come in the form of recognition and don’t have to cost anything at all. People learn from what they do well and will continue to do those things as well as raise the bar for themselves.

Thank you for allowing me the chance to reflect on my experiences in both cultures. I will only align myself with a culture that is committed to creativity and contribution.


Mike Henry  |  01 Feb 2011  |  Reply

Thank you! I just tweeted your quote above, “People will follow your example whether you want them to or not.” Great statement. Too often we blame people who do what they’ve seen. We need more buck-stoppers.

Join The Conversation