Leading With Generosity: Be a River, Not a Reservoir

Heneka Watkis-Porter

20 December 2018

Albert Einstein once said, “The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving.” TWEET

The holiday season brings the opportunity to lead with generosity, and you can positively influence your mental and emotional state as a leader during this time of good cheer. As it turns out, “Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give,” says author and former neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

An abundance of research solidifies this claim. According to a Harvard Business School study, “Happier people give more, and giving makes people happier, such that happiness and giving may operate in a positive feedback loop.” Up to three degrees are impacted when we give, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science revealed. The implication is that, depending on the size of your network, you are potentially able to impact scores of other people with one simple act of altruism.

Psychologist Liz Dunn and her colleagues concluded that “people's sense of happiness is greater when they spend relatively more on others than on themselves.” In one survey of more than 600 U.S. citizens, Dunn and colleagues found that spending money on others predicted greater happiness whereas spending money on oneself did not. Interestingly, this pattern was found across all income levels.

Giving triggers happiness especially when we observe the difference it has made in the lives of others. To whom much is given, much is expected. Obviously then when we give, we receive also, but not in the physical sense. Good deeds release the hormone oxytocin which contributes to feelings of euphoria, empathy and connectedness.

Why Generosity Matters in Leadership

As leaders, it behoves us to give generously as we live our purpose in service to others. We should model a lavishly flowing river that generously nourishes others—not a stale reservoir that’s closed off and self-serving.

Just as a reservoir isn’t able to give beyond its capacity, neither can we grow beyond our willingness to give. Our giving doesn’t have to be strictly financial. We have skills and ideas that, if shared, would be transformative for others. Why not serve another organization pro bono?

Volunteering is a great way to give. Share your time with an organization that’s aligned to your goals and vision. For example, I have committed to help spread the message of His Excellency The Most Honourable Sir Patrick Allen, Governor General of Jamaica, through his “I Believe Initiative.” This message resonates with me in a deep way. It affirms, “There is nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed by what is right with Jamaica.” As an ambassador for the initiative, it gives me immense pleasure to provide hope.

What are some of the other ways you will be giving of yourself during this time of sharing?

Heneka Watkis-Porter

Heneka Watkis-Porter is an entrepreneur, author, speaker and host of The Entrepreneurial You podcast. She is founder and CEO of Patwa Culcha International, which owns the authentic Jamaica clothing brand, Patwa Apparel. Heneka is also the creator of the Caribbean’s first virtual conference and expo: The Entrepreneurial You Virtual SME Conference & Expo and Host Site leader for Leadercast Women.

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