Kedron Rhodes Thoughts on Design, Innovation & Leadership

3 Ways Generosity Builds Strong Leadership

Have you ever busted your tail on a project, worked extra hours, took extra responsibility, and made personal sacrifices, all to see the project succeed? If you’re a responsible, hard working person you know just what I’m talking about. And doesn’t it feel great to see the project go well? There is something immensely gratifying about those team high-fives, swapping close-call stories over an evening drink, and the occasional project bonus.

During the 2008 presidential campaign I was the creative director for Governor Mike Huckabee’s digital presence. We were a small team, one and a half developers and one and a half designers. Needless to say, we worked hard, long hours while the campaign was in full swing.

The team felt the pressure as the mid-terms approached and Mike Gains, my boss, saw it wearing on us. As we approached the next critical deadline, Mike challenged us with an incentive. If we could hit our goal, he was going to score the other developer and me some trending tech at Best Buy.

Until then, I had never considered the power of generosity as a leader. Even now, almost a decade removed, Mike’s generosity shapes the way I view leadership. I’ve come to realize that leadership embraces generosity.

Leadership is generous with recognition

I’m convinced that we’re most effective when we’re working together as a team. I’m also convinced that we’re unique, and that our uniqueness is what makes teams more effective. When our unique contributions are overlooked and unrecognized we can quickly become resentful, even when we’re taking great pride in the team’s effort.

Effective leadership recognizes the team and the individual. Mike challenged the team, and rewarded us individually. He made it a point to recognize our unique contributions.

Recognizing the contributions of your team members can be as simple as highlighting individual accomplishments when the project is being discussed. These small gestures go long way in building a sense of pride and ownership within the team.

Leadership is generous with resources

The value the Huckabee team created for the company dwarfed the expenditure of the Best Buy visit. Generosity doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. It’s simply showing you care by going above and beyond.

Being generous with resources is an effective way to communicate that you value someone’s hard work, their craft and the problem they're trying to solve.

Leadership is generous with time

We all worked long hours, and Mike was right there with us. The night we scrambled to hit our target, he hung out in the office with us, cheering us on. I remember that it was dark out when we finally called it a night, satisfied with our results. The other developer and I hopped into Mike’s truck and we went down the street to Best Buy, just before they closed. He could have left us to lock up the office. He could have placed a Best Buy order online. He could have waited until the next day to take us.

Effective leaders know when to show up and be generous with their time. The time spent with a team, rubbing shoulders, sharing tears and high-fives, can be the most meaningful investment we make into our teams.

Next steps

As you read this, it may be helpful to think about the adverse effects that not being generous might be causing in your team. Do team members jockey for recognition? Does your team take unnecessary shortcuts in order to avoid making a request for more resources? Does your team hesitate to or avoid making requests for your time?

Generosity doesn’t come easy for many, but I believe generosity is an indispensable quality of an effective leader.

How can you be more generous as a leader?

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