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Mindful Leaders Are Givers

The Paradox of Leadership Give and Take

Western leaders have been conditioned for generations to believe that the way to advance is to claim as much as possible, to take more than you give. Many leaders make personal gain the objective of business life, and almost any means to achieve it is fair game.

Hard work, perseverance, passion and talent are valuable, of course. However, in the human dynamics of business, taking what you can, even if it’s from others, is often the method used to attain rewards.

But what if there was a paradoxical truth that showed the opposite to be the case… that by giving away what you have, you’ll get even more? There is substance to this truth, and it warrants examination.

The majority of employees see their bosses fitting the mold of the “taker.” Viewed as powerful, competent, productive, and self-serving, such leaders use people to get what they want, and effectively work their way up the corporate ladder.

Conversely, leaders who put their needs last and give more than they take are seen as weak, interdependent, and insecure. These “givers” are not viewed as likely to advance. Looking deeper, however, reveals another reality.

Adam Grant, in his book, Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success (Penguin 2013), describes the contrast between these two basic styles of leadership social interaction: the taker and the giver.

Initially, takers have the perceived edge in leadership success, but over time success depends heavily on how leaders approach their interactions with other people.

The Deception About Taking

The premise regarding value-driven takers is that they get what they want. They have an intentionality that achieves goals and maximizes opportunity. Takers make things happen for themselves, and for the most part, those around them.

The costs are secondary, and often discounted. The position that seems advantageous at face value is rarely advantageous at all — for anyone. This is the deception of the taker’s way.

In truth, what appears to be a successful leader is someone who suffers from a damaged success ladder, all because of a poor way of treating people. The leader doesn’t recognize the long-term effects of taking from others.

The Surprise About Giving

Givers don’t strike people as likely to attain “success.” They put the needs of others ahead of self, sometimes helping others with tasks instead of focusing on their own.

Giving leaders are more prone to add value to their people and help them become their best. They recognize that everyone needs others to reach the peak of effectiveness. For givers, success comes in teams, not so much to individuals. In the competitive business world this mentality is often considered strange, even crazy.

Givers trust and give the benefit of the doubt. They are willing to risk themselves by betting on those around them, and understand there is a difference between taking and receiving. According to Grant, receiving is a willingness to accept help with the desire to reciprocate. Givers credit others for their work.

Givers focus on the success of others, and draw people in. The giving becomes contagious, as does the benefits of following a giver: knowledge, skills, interdependence, beneficial contacts, efficiency, and productivity. Eventually, the giving leader is recognized as a major contributor.

The paradox of leadership giving and taking is seen below the surface and over time: give away what you have to end up with moreā€•take what you want and end up with less.

Strengthening the Giver’s Image

Giving leaders can be very effective, despite career stifling bias. They can be firm, kind, and results-oriented. Employees want to be led well and held accountable under defined expectations. The giver is perfectly positioned to do this in a way people respect and admire.

Givers, if taken advantage of too often, eventually withdraw from giving. This truly renders the giver ineffective and grants the takers more control. This “doormat” state is avoidable. Givers can raise their level of observation with discerning trust:

• Get to know people and watch their behavior.
• Remember that agreeable people are not necessarily givers.
• Look for motives and values, rather than outer appearances.
• Wait for clues, such as shallowness or true genuineness.
• Observe how they treat others.
• Notice if they regard themselves highly or not.

Givers can also adjust their approach to suspected takers. If there is a lack of reciprocity, they can become what author Grant calls a “matcher,” someone who will give, but conditionally. Giving is done with the agreement that the other person gives back.

Giving leaders can learn to enforce boundaries and say no, yet still be polite. They can reduce exposure and find another resource to meet someone’s needs, and observe how that transpires. If there is cooperation and reciprocation, then giving can be resumed with ongoing assessment.

Givers are a vital key to organizational success, and are responsible for the success of many others. They understand that winning doesn’t require that someone else lose. Takers draw life out of an organization, and leaders are wise to avoid those behaviors. A coach or trusted colleague can help with this.

Giving doesn’t require major sacrifices or deeds. It just requires caring about others and sharing what you have inside. Try to emulate the spirit of the giver, and see what good things happen.

One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is “Am I a transformational leader who inspires individuals and organizations to achieve their highest potential, flourish at work, experience elevating energy and achieve levels of effectiveness difficult to attain otherwise?” Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching to help leaders create a culture where respect and trust flourish.

Working with a seasoned executive coach and leadership consultant trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-i 2.0, Hogan Lead, CPI 260 and Denison Culture Survey can help leaders nurture strengths-based conversations in the workplace. You can become an inspiring leader who models emotional intelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become fully engaged with the vision, mission and strategy of your company or law firm.

Working Resources is a San Francisco Bay Area executive coaching and leadership development firm helping innovative companies and law firms develop emotionally intelligent and mindful leaders. We help build coaching cultures of positive engagement.

...About Dr. Maynard Brusman

Dr. Maynard Brusman
Consulting Psychologist and Executive Coach|
Trusted Leadership Advisor
Emotional Intelligence & Mindful Leadership Workplace Expert

I coach leaders to cultivate clarity, creativity, focus, trust, and full engagement in a purpose-driven culture.

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist and executive coach. He is the president of Working Resources, a leadership consulting and executive coaching firm. We specialize in helping San Francisco Bay Area companies develop emotionally intelligent and mindful leaders.

Maynard is a highly sought-after speaker and workshop leader. He facilitates leadership retreats in Northern California and Costa Rica.

“Maynard Brusman is one of the foremost coaches in the United States. He utilizes a wide variety of assessments in his work with senior executives and upper level managers, and is adept at helping his clients both develop higher levels of emotional intelligence and achieve breakthrough business results. As a senior leader in the executive coaching field, Dr. Brusman brings an exceptional level of wisdom, energy, and creativity to his work.” — Jeffrey E. Auerbach, Ph.D., President, College of Executive Coaching

The Society for Advancement of Consulting (SAC) awarded rare "Board Approved" designations in the specialties of Executive Coaching and Leadership Development. Alan Weiss, Ph.D., President, Summit Consulting Group

Are you an executive leader who wants to be more effective at work and get better results?
Did you know that research has demonstrated, that the most effective leaders model high emotional intelligence, and that EQ can be learned? It takes self-awareness, empathy, and compassion to become a more emotionally intelligent leader.

Emotionally intelligent and mindful leaders inspire people to become fully engaged with the vision and mission of their company. Mindful leadership starts from within.

I am a consulting psychologist and executive coach. I believe coaching is a collaborative process of providing people with the resources and opportunities they need to self manage, develop change resiliency and become more effective. Utilizing instrumented assessments - clients set clear goals, make optimal use of their strengths, and take action to create desired changes aligned with personal values.

I have been chosen as an expert to appear on radio and TV, MSNBC, CBS Health Watch and in the San Francisco Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Time, Forbes and Fast Company.

Over the past thirty-five years, I have coached hundreds of leaders to improve their leadership effectiveness.

After only 6 months, one executive coaching client reported greater productivity, and more stress resiliency helping her company improve revenues by 20%. While this may depend on many factors most of my clients report similar satisfaction in their EQ leadership competence leading to better business results.

You can choose to work with a highly seasoned executive coach to help facilitate your leadership development and executive presence awakening what’s possible.

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