Leading with Generosity

April 15th, 2010 @   -  No Comments

Being generous is an attitude that can be developed whether we are rich or poor. Allah has blessed us with his bounty and He expects us to share generously whatever we have. In fact, we will not attain piety until we give from what we hold dear, as stated in this verse: “By no means shall you attain piety, unless you give of that which you love.” (Quran 3:92)

However, there is always a small part of us that is resistant to being giving and kind. This part of our psyche worries that we do not have enough money, time, or energy to give away. One reason is that we usually adjust our standard of living upward when we have more. As our earnings increase, we realize that we have more needs to be met (a better car, bigger house, etc.), and subsequently our expenses increase. Hence the feeling we never have enough to give.

How can we lead with generosity?

Seek to give more of that which you wish to have. If you want more learning and growth, teach and nurture the people around you. If you want more barakah in your wealth, give in charity. Likewise, if you face difficulties and hardship, offer a helping hand to someone; or if you think you are too busy, take some time to volunteer. Whatever you give, it comes back to you in multiples. By giving more of your time, money, and knowledge, you will have more of all of those, and more importantly receive a feeling of gratification and a reward from your Lord. It is hard to receive anything if you do not open your hands to give first. We plant, then we reap! “And whatsoever you spend of anything, He will replace it.” (Quran 34:39)

When we stop giving, we are blocking our source of rizq and abundance. We become like a farmer who used to plant a whole bag of seed, but then decided to plant only half of it, or stop planting altogether to save his seeds! “Behold, you are those invited to spend in the way of Allah: but among you are some that are niggardly. But any who are niggardly are so at the expense of their own souls…” (Quran 47:38)

Empowering others

While financial generosity and volunteering are very important, they are not your only resource to giving. In the context of leadership, empowering and helping people to grow and take control of their lives is another important facet of generosity.

A poor man came to the Prophet (PBUH) begging for some charity. The Prophet (PBUH) asked him if he owned anything. The man happened to own a blanket and a leather bag. The Prophet (PBUH) asked the man to bring both these items. Then the Prophet (PBUH) sold them with two Dirhams and gave the money to the man. He asked him to buy food for his family with one dirham and use the other Dirham to buy an ax. When the man came back with an ax, the Prophet (PBUH) made a handle for the ax and asked him to use it to cut wood and sell the wood. After 15 days, the man happily returned to the Prophet (PBUH) with 20 Dirhams that he had earned from his own labor. The Prophet (PBUH) told him, “This is good for you, rather than the begging that leaves horrible scars on your face in the Hereafter.”

The Prophet (PBUH) gave the man the right tools and helped him not just to maintain his dignity, but also to become self-reliant and contribute to society in a positive way. When people are empowered, they are more productive.

Some leaders may be generous with their money, but never empower and nurture the people around them and give them the opportunity to grow. They have a tough time sharing power and credit. Generous leaders, on the other hand, seek to uncover not only their own possibilities for growth, but also aim to unleash the hidden potential of others by coaching them and investing in their training and education to improve their skills.

Leading with generosity requires practice and perseverance. Here are some practical tips to lead with generosity:

  1. Clarify the purpose and mission of the organization to inspire and engage the people.
  2. Offer positive feedback and make people feel that the work they do is important.
  3. Forgive people’s shortcomings and give them the benefit of the doubt.
  4. Create opportunity for growth and development for others by coaching them and giving them stretched assignments that round out their experience base.
  5. Share your knowledge and experience to enrich people and share with them some tips you have learned from your successes and failures that will save them time and energy.
  6. Accept the fact that you are not indispensable, and prepare and empower your successors. Leave a legacy.

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