Let's call him Mike. He worked in production - he built stuff. I was new to the business, and a very young leader. At Christmas that year I visited the production floor and handed out candy bars (full size candy bars, like the celebrity neighbor at Halloween) as a way of saying Thanks for your work.
For various reasons, I didn't see much of Mike after that. But one day, eleven years later, I found myself in a conversation with Mike on that same production floor. Can you guess what he wanted to talk about?
You gave me a candy bar that one Christmas. That was probably the coolest thing anyone has done for me around here.
Generosity is one of the most potent forces in breaking down relational barriers, our innate limiters of trust and camaraderie. And it is rare enough that generous leaders stand out.
I know a leader who very often will surreptitiously pick up the tab for employees and customers when he sees them at a restaurant. When that gift is given to an employee having dinner with her family, how might it influence her response when that leader pushes for difficult change?
Generosity is not limited to tangible actions. Leaders who liberally spread the credit for successes exhibit generosity of spirit, as do leaders who take on a disproportionate share of blame for failures, as do leaders who put faith in an employee's unproven ability. And their people notice.
One of Abraham Lincoln's most striking and effective characteristics was his magnanimity, his willingness to assume better about a person than perhaps was warranted. That, too, is generosity. And consider the nature of your "networking" experiences. You may have acquaintances who bring you joy and create goodwill. They probably do so because they take a genuine interest in you and generously share whatever compliments and insights they have to offer. You probably have others who seem interested only in reciprocal arrangements.
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For the long term leader, here is that opportunity.