Leaders Give.

Who you are and the calling you feel to lead are very important but the real test of leadership is what you do. In this series, I’ve presented the principles of leadership as action verbs – things that leaders do and you can do, too.

To recap: I first shared leaders master themselves and create focus, for themselves and those they lead. Next, leaders influence, communicate, and act effectively. These are the activities in which leadership is transmitted to others and carried out. These skills lead a team to the successful execution of goals and objectives.

The sixth and final principle of leadership encompasses both character and action: leaders give. According to Robert Greenleaf, author of Servant Leadership, the whole purpose of leadership is to serve. In the end, the success of your leadership will be judged not by what you earned but by what you contributed.

The act of giving embodies leadership in so many ways. It brings your focus to others, teaching us to look beyond ourselves. It enables and influences others to make positive changes in their own lives. It improves the condition of our families, our communities, our nation, and our world. Above all it builds and reinforces the character essential to leadership: the view that our purpose is to add value to the lives of those around us.

Likewise, there are many ways that leaders can give.  AOL and Revolution founder Steve Case outlines it succinctly, “There are three different ways to give. One is to give money, write a check… Two is to give your time and really focus on the issue with passion. And three, essentially, is to give your reputation, leverage your network and try to plug people together.” Not many have amassed the fortune of Steve Case, but if you don’t have money to give, you can give of your time, expertise, and skills.

3 Things to Know

1. Giving is its own reward. We feel good when we do good. It’s just that simple. According to David Rubenstein, CEO of The Carlyle Group, “My theory is, number one, you should give because when you give, it’s selfish (i.e., for your own benefit). Nobody who gives says, ‘I feel terrible about myself. I hate myself for giving away that money.’ You feel better about yourself, and when you feel better about yourself, you’re gonna live longer, because your emotional health will be better.”

2. Giving yields ROI. Organizations and leaders that give reap tangible benefits. Dave Barger, CEO of Jet Blue, spells it out, “We absolutely get something out of it, too. We are better able to attract great talent, because we want people on the team who see the world the way we do.  And we get a competitive advantage, too. People are more likely to choose a company that aligns with their values, so being in the community is the best way to attract new customers.

3. Giving is leading with gratitude. Here’s Warren Buffett on giving and gratitude: “So here I am, by pure, pure luck, born at the right time, …in the right place and in a system where allocating capital pays off like crazy. I don’t feel guilty about that. I do feel grateful about it. I’ve got a whole bunch of stock certificates sitting in a box…You know, I could go down there and fondle ‘em occasionally, but that’s about all they’re good for. I mean, they have no utility to me. They have all kinds of utility to the [others]. Incredible utility.”

3 Things to Do

1. Find your giving niche – How can you best contribute? Your money? Your time? Your talent? A mix of all three? Is there a cause “close to home,” something near and dear to your heart? What ways can you give that would maximize your impact? Find an area where you’re motivated to give, equipped to give, and can make a difference by giving.

2. Give as a group – Find some ways that your family, your team, or your organization can contribute together to a cause. It will build your collective character, bring your group together as a team, and set the right tone among the folks around you. If you pitch in together with your friends, relatives, or colleagues, you’ll all share in the good feelings and positive energy that results, as well as learning how to better work together.

3. Do some quiet giving – Giving and serving as a leader or organization sets a great example and a great tone for your team. However, some of your giving should be done quietly, even anonymously.  Giving builds character and selflessness, but giving without recognition multiplies character. Giving anonymously puts all of your focus on your contribution and its recipient – none on yourself. As the well-known verse says, “Do your good deeds in secret” for the greatest rewards.

Giving is one of the ways that anyone can do leadership. As with self-mastery, focus, influence, communication, and execution, the key principles of leadership are all intentional activities, things that you can get up and do right now. Accordingly, we’ve given you a short to-do list to accompany each principle. Trying putting these action items on your own to-do list each morning. By afternoon, regardless of your position or title, you will be Doing Leadership.

For more leadership resources, visit www.marksanborn.com. 

Mark Sanborn
About Mark Sanborn

Mark Sanborn, CSP, CPAE, is president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea studio dedicated to developing leaders in business and in life. Mark is an international bestselling author and noted expert on leadership, team building, customer service and change. Mark Sanborn graduated cum laude from The Ohio State University. In addition to his work as a business educator and author, Mark continues to be an active leadership practitioner. Most recently he served as the president of the National Speakers Association.

One Response to Doing Leadership. Part 6 (final) in a Series
  1. Really great post and series of ideas.

    Brings home the fact that anyone can take the lead and make things happen.

    In my experience what often happens is that people think narrowly when it comes to leading and don’t always see themselves as leaders, even when they are.

    One of the easiest ways to show gratitude is to simply say thank you and surprising how often people forget about the impact of this.

    Duncan Brodie


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