Leadership and Generosity

Generosity starts with us seeing people
— Michael Dauphinee

The concepts of leadership and generosity are inherently connected.  They are intertwined to the point where you may not be able to speak about one without the other.

“As a leader, a life of generosity is the only life worth living,” according to author and leadership coach, Michael Dauphinee from his book, Identity.  “Leaders say I’m not who I hope I can be when I’m not giving myself away.”

“The meaning can be anything – but it has to be something outside of the self,” states Dauphinee.  “We get so focused on our little part in life that we forget to ask where we are and what part we are playing in the whole.  Part of generosity is having a picture big enough to include others and help everyone find their place. Generosity starts with us seeing people.  To begin being generous start by asking 2 simple questions:  where are you and who is around you? The key is to find your place of best contribution.  So long as you stay where you can contribute best, your organization or community has the highest chance of success.”

Those who are driven by the thought that life has a purpose and has a meaning are the ones who have the greatest impact.  Consider the impact that the leadership of the church has had on our society over the past millennial.  They didn’t remain focused on self but looked outside of themselves and had tremendous impact on the lives of people in their communities.

A.W. Tozer describes in the publication, Mornings with Tozer, “Although worship of their God by those members of the church throughout the centuries was internal, it did not stay inside of themselves.  Instead, the internal radiant worship of their God took on new meaning and impact through establishing great hospitals, educational institutions and human service organizations.  Those outward acts of generosity grew out of their hearts of worship for God and compassion for others.”

According to Tozer, “a survey of church history will prove that it was those who were the yearning worshipers (those who internally seek-after God), who also became the great workers and the selfless servants throughout the ages [Mother Theresa is a good example].  If we give ourselves to God’s call for worship, everyone will do more for Him and others than they are doing now.”

Companies and business leaders can demonstrate leadership through their generosity as well.  In fact, there are beneficial self-interest reasons for them to do so. 

In her article, Asset Acquisition Ideas from the Top Advisors in the Country, Susan Kay, Vice President Business Development for MFS Advisers, Boston, Massachusetts, shares that Cone Communications did a study in 2015 on how corporate responsibility is viewed by consumers.  What their research indicated was that when a person or company is charitably involved, two things happen:

  • 96% of people have a more positive image of that person/company;
  • 91% of people are likely to switch brands to one that supports a good cause if other factors such as price, quality, value, etc. are equal.

A business leader who clearly understands how he can provide great leadership through the generosity of his company is Chieh Huang, owner of Boxed Company, New York, NY.

According to CNBC iconic. Tour feature by Susan Caminiti, when Mr. Huang started the household goods and grocery e-tailer, Boxed, out of his garage in Edison, New Jersey, in 2013, lofty workplace benefits were hardly on his mind.

"When we started this business, I wanted to sell bulk goods to people all around the country," he says. "Social change through toilet paper was not on the agenda.”

Perhaps not, but these days Boxed is getting as much notice for the generous fringe benefits it offers to its more than 200 employees as for the company's smart business strategy states Caminiti.

Beginning in 2015, Huang began footing the bill for his employees' children to go to college and a year later offered to pay up to $20,000 for employees' weddings. While funding these major life events has certainly garnered Boxed its share of headlines, it also speaks to the thornier issue of how companies are attempting to attract and keep the best workers.

"After leading my first company, [gaming start-up Astro Ape], I realized that it doesn't matter how powerful or big an organization is. If all of its people walked out one day, that organization is worth zero the next day," says Huang.  "That was a huge epiphany for me, and it made me realize that I'm only as good as the people I lead."

The idea to pay for his employees' kids to go to college came about after Huang visited the Atlanta fulfillment center in 2015. He discovered that only about two of the 20 or so workers there had their own cars. The rest had a long walk just to get to public transportation to come to work. He was determined to do something to remedy the situation, and "the most obvious answer was to get everyone a car," Huang recalls. "But I wanted something that was going to be more long-lasting and really empower upward mobility. In my life, that was my education."

The wedding payments came about by chance as well, Huang says. An employee in the company's fulfillment center in New Jersey was working a second job to pay for both his mother's medical bills and his own wedding. When he realized he wasn't going to be able to save up fast enough to do both, he broke down crying at work and went home early.

"This is a very stoic guy," Huang says. "So, when I found out he had left, I called him that night and he told me what happened. He was working seven days a week, so I wasn't going to say to him 'work harder.' We stepped in, and we paid for the wedding."

"Every company has to decide what they want to focus on, and for us it's paying for these life-altering events for our employees," he says. "It's not the cheapest program, but then, we don't look like a typical start-up." "We're frugal, and we use our money to fund what we think are really impactful and meaningful things," he says, noting that fewer than 10 full-time employees have voluntarily left the company since it started.

In the meantime, Huang says Boxed can't find talented folks fast enough. "We get our fair share, but I wish we could get even more," he says. With a reputation for generosity and a concept that's growing, Huang is likely to see that wish come true.

To live a life of generosity is to live a life of community.  In fact, leadership through generosity over time inherently builds community including companies, schools, religious organizations, social service agencies, etc.  Working with others in a community allows you to not only go farther but faster together as illustrated by the corporate community that Mr. Huang has created through his generosity at Boxed.

Where are you and who is around you?

Do you see people?  Can you identify with where they are in life and what they are feeling and going through?

Leadership and generosity are inseparable actions.  They lead to impact in the lives of those around you. 

And the more generous you become, the more connected you will feel in being part of something greater than yourself. 

For more thoughts on generosity pick up a copy of the insightful philanthropic book, “An Unexpected Legacy: Strategies of Generosity.”    Click here to place your order.