The Gift of Leadership

At this time of year, as we carefully select holiday gifts for family, friends and colleagues, our generosity is usually at an all-time high. Many of us also donate our time or funds to support charitable organizations as well. For these reasons, the final months of year, usually late November through December, are often referred to as the season of giving.

And while it is heartwarming to see so many people engaged in giving, my thoughts turned to the most important gift association executives can give their organizations year round, generosity of spirit in leadership. In fact, to be truly effective, leadership and generosity go hand in hand.

Educator and author Bruna Martinuzzi summed this up well in an article for “When we think of generosity, our thoughts automatically drift to gifts of money or charity,” she wrote. “In the context of leadership, there are other gifts that don't have a monetary value, but whose value is beyond price. These include giving someone a chance; giving someone the benefit of the doubt; and giving others a reason to want to work for you.”

Similarly, in a post for, contributor Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, identified generosity as one of the 12 habits of exceptional leaders. “Great leaders are generous. They share credit and offer enthusiastic praise,” he wrote. “They’re as committed to their followers’ success as they are to their own. They want to inspire all of their employees to achieve their personal best—not just because it will make the team more successful, but because they care about each person as an individual.”

Further, Huffington Post contributor Barbara Bonner, author of Inspiring Generosity, dedicated an entire post (excerpted from a speech given at the 2014 Mindful Leadership Summit) to highlighting the 20 qualities of the generous leader. Among them is being open to all ideas, even those that aren’t immediately appealing. “The generous leader opens herself to hearing and acknowledging before dismissing and diminishing,” she wrote. “And the mere act of being open in turns helps foster institutional cultures of daring and boldness, unhampered by fears of put downs.”

So as we exchange gifts this holiday season, I would encourage all of us to think carefully about those intangible gifts of good will that will foster innovation and inspiration in our organizations in the coming year. The gifts of leadership are invaluable. Happy Holidays!