The Generous Leader

Having team members who aren’t generous towards each other, who don’t freely and generously share what they know, is a challenge that most teams face. And yet, a team can’t afford not to share their thoughts, ideas and experience. Sometimes people don’t make the link between lack of generosity and not getting as good a result as they could have. And yet, the link is real. Workplaces need to be generous places.

As a leader, you can show the way for what generosity means and what it creates. Generosity starts with you.

Fearlessly share what you know, your wisdom and insights, your experience (without thinking that your perspective is the complete or correct answer). Be a generous leader.

There can be many reasons why people are not generous towards each other, here are a few examples to ponder.


This is a common misperception. With this belief people will withhold information as they expect it will make them weaker if they give information away. However, the opposite is true. There is the old fashioned saying that “knowledge is power” yet today we live in a world where information is so quickly out of date that we need to share simply to keep up to date.


If there isn’t a habit of sharing, people won’t share. They won’t be used to it so they won’t see it as important or even an option. They don’t know what they don’t know. They won’t see the benefits of sharing as they haven’t experienced it. If people are also busy, there will also not be any appetite for even taking the time out to try it and see what it could lead to.


If people don’t understand how what they are doing fits into the bigger picture, they will not see a reason for sharing as they will only be narrowly focused on their own part. They are maybe used to working alone and have not had reason to consider how this could help them or others.


If you don’t value your own knowledge or opinion, you are less likely to think anyone else would either. This will mean you are not stepping forward to offer your contribution to a discussion or a collaborative situation.


If you see your colleagues as competitors, this will inevitably inhibit you from sharing.

In a perceived competition, you compare yourself with others and will not share as it would give your ‘competitors’ an ‘advantage’ they did not have before. It’s driven from a win-lose thinking where you think there can only be one winner.

Another aspect of competitive thinking is making any sharing conditional. It’s based on the underlying idea that you will only share something if you get something back. “If you don’t tell me, I won’t tell you.”

Yet another expression of competitive thinking is to want others to have to work as hard for it as you have had to.


It can feel scary to share. You may feel as if you are giving away something very valuable, and you may be fearful of what that does to your position in the team. It may make you question if you will still be as valuable when your knowledge has been spread to others.

Feeling threatened, whether the threat is real or perceived, drives defensive or at least protective behaviours.


In some cases, information is withheld in order to protect others. The logic behind this is that people may not be able to handle the information or may be hurt by it.


Effective teams are those who regularly, generously and fearlessly share what they know and think for the benefit of everyone. In order for this to happen, there needs to be a good level of trust.


An effective way of building trust is to kick off some powerful sharing, starting with the small and building it up. Then actively and explicitly explain the links to why the sharing made a difference and where. It could be as simple as a debrief meeting or discussion after a meeting, simply saying “let’s share what worked here and what didn’t work.

Here are 5 ways to be generous as a leader:


Be generous with your time. Spend time with people on a regular basis. Emails can wait. And be 100% present. When you’re with someone – in real life or remotely – show them that they have your full attention and that you value them enough to not let yourself be distracted by buzzing phones or pinging emails. Read more about presence in the Impact hack in the April 2021 issue of IMPACT.


Keep an open mind. Be generous with your genuine consideration of the ideas and perspectives of others. Listen with curiosity. Consider ideas and opinions – don’t be too quick to judge.


Be generous with your knowledge. Share freely what you know. But only if people are open to it and are open to listening. One way of doing that is to make sure you share it as a suggestion, not the only answer.


Be generous with your gratitude and care. Praise and thank people, recognise them publicly if relevant. Cheer someone on for their effort, dedication, creativity and results. We have the power to increase the number of positive messages around us and that creates a ripple effect. We need it in these disruptive and uncertain times.

Show people you care about them. Be a leader who likes people.


Be generous with your honesty and feedback. Kind honesty is sharing your observations on what someone is doing very well (so they can do more of it) and also what they could do more effectively (where they’re not having the impact they want or need). Feedforward is caring enough to be honest – always in a supportive way that makes the person feel you always have their best interest in mind.

Generosity breeds generosity. It starts with you.

Author: Mandy and Elisabet

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