Research on Leading With Generosity

I think of summer as a generous time of year: the sun is beaming, farmer’s markets are overflowing with ripe produce, and leafy trees are offering up their shade. Generosity is an important human quality, and it is becoming recognized as an important leadership trait that can benefit organizations and the individual. 

Adam Grant, Wharton School professor and author of the book Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, researches this subject, and found interesting results for employees who share their time and resources with a giving spirit. For example, salespeople who rate strongly in their desire to benefit others generate 50 percent more revenue than their counterparts. People are also more likely to take suggestions from people who are perceived as generous. 

In Give and Take, Grant explains that people tend to fall somewhere along a “reciprocity spectrum” of how much they prefer to take or give in any relationship. He defines takers as those who like to get more than they give. They aren’t necessarily cruel or cutthroat, he says, but cautious and self-protective. Givers, on the other hand, prefer giving over getting. They are other-focused. In the workplace, says Grant, most people alternate between those two poles: we’re “Matchers” as Grant would put it, trying to act in a fair way and exchanging favors.

Being more of a Giver than a Taker or Matcher has special benefits, but also potentially pitfalls. Grant explains that givers can become “pushovers and doormats,” but, according to abundant research, some conducted by Grant, there’s a certain kind of Giver that tends to thrive: givers who have a strong sense of worth, and who give strategically, avoiding being overly-generous to people who only take. This group of Givers finds the most success of all in the workplace.

Sometimes, it takes awhile for the generous spirit to reap rewards, according to Grant. A giving style of leadership that wisely shares time, ideas and other resources is beneficial over the long haul as the individual builds strong relationships and is held in high regard. Giver-leaders benefit organizations in a range of ways, including encouraging others by example to share knowledge and be generous–spread throughout an organization, this can boost idea-generation, performance, and productivity. 

Of course, there are many other reasons to be generous and think of others. But the results of research on generosity offers encouragement and support to those who, with a strong sense of self-worth, work frequently for the benefit of others. 

So bask in summer’s bounty, and consider spreading that generosity around. 

Link to Adam Grant’s work HERE

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