When they reach the top of the tree, very few leaders are focused on their own needs anymore. The speed and incline of their ascent strongly depends on the energy that they can impart into those around them – this energy converts into knowledge and that knowledge converts into results. The more they can develop and support their teams, the higher they themselves will rise.
When leaders put the effort in to sow the seeds, they will eventually reap the benefits.
This phenomenon is easy to observe when someone has “made it”, but there are many more people who struggle to recognise the benefits of giving while they are still on their way up. In the fight to stand out in the corporate jungle, the “them and us” mentality is so hard to avoid. Why would you help someone out if there is no immediate and tangible benefit to you? Why would you invest your energy in someone else’s development? You may not have line management responsibility for them, so what moral imperative is there for you to give of your time and energy?
There is no imperative; there is simply a choice.
The choice to give when there is no immediate return is what singles out future leaders from the wannabes.
The “giving” doesn’t need to be extravagant, and it rarely disrupts the “giver” from their daily routine. It might be a caring word of encouragement at exactly the right time. It might be a few hints about how to complete a task in half the time or pointers on how to handle a certain situation better. When you offer your ideas freely, you can often add value to someone’s project – better to help them along the right path than stand by and smirk when they fail. Too many people take a delight in seeing their colleagues (read rivals) fail – as if it makes them look better – why would you do that?
I think that this distinction reaches the core of why (future) leaders are so happy to give. They have an absolute and utter belief in the power of the collective. If the collective is doing better, then they too will see the benefits. The selfish individuals who delight in the failures of others will soon find themselves isolated and alone. Teams are intelligent organisms – if you pull for the team, the team will pull for you. It doesn’t work with one-way traffic.
Reciprocity lies at the core of human nature. Generating goodwill by giving freely will bring unexpected benefits for years to come. You don’t have to keep a track of what you have given – with time the good deeds will repay themselves, of that you can be certain.
Lastly, giving makes you feel good. The uncomplicated act of sharing your knowledge or offering encouragement is your one-way gift to the world. At that very moment, you feel as if you are “doing your bit.” That, for me, is the essence of a great leader (or at least that’s been the case for the good bosses I have had and leaders I have witnessed). They all “do their bit” for the people that work with them.