Business is increasingly focused on the power of kindness in leadership. In 2018, Women of the Future named its first 50 Leading Lights who were proving that interpersonal skills and collaboration could underpin success.
This is positive for business and working culture. However, I believe we need to move beyond kindness; we need to look at the importance of ‘generous’ leadership.
Generous leadership is different from the politeness and gratitude that should underpin professionalism. Generous leadership is the active use of support and guidance – and it requires an investment of time and energy.
Generous leaders are not necessarily selfless. They are aware that helping an individual to progress and develop can improve the performance of a business.
How to Be a Generous Leader
To put a generous culture into place, leaders need to stop sharing generalisations of kind behaviour and be specific about what really helps individuals to grow. They need to walk the talk.
Skills audits and personal development plans help to identify areas where support and guidance from a manager could be useful. Generous leaders should then follow up on action plans, not only as a matter of routine, but also at challenging times when additional support is needed to help employees to achieve their best.
Similarly, I see sponsorship as a mature form of generous leadership. This is when a leader acknowledges an employee’s potential and advocates for their success to others.
However, it’s crucial to remember that generosity cannot be – and should not be – reserved for your direct reports only. Generous leadership is a way to identify, acknowledge and develop talent beyond your own team.
Exercised with emotional intelligence, generous leadership is a sure way to break the silo culture at work and ensure employees feel connected to the organisations that they work for. This is especially important at a time when flexible working is being promoted as a way of improving wellbeing, productivity and diversity and staff could be working remotely in distant locations.
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