The Dynamics of Generous Leadership

Generous leadership is the liberal and open-handed use of personal influence to enhance the capacity and purpose of others. A generous leader makes room for the development and advancement of other people. Generous leaders recognize the glimmer of greatness in someone else and respond to the capacity they possess.  Generous leaders allow others—employees, peers, family members, congregants—to be promoted without perceiving their advancement as a threat to themselves or their organizations. Generous leaders cultivate an abundance mindset in themselves and understand that facilitating development in other people doesn’t detract from who they are or the purposes and plans God has for them. Instead, this mindset fosters personal and organizational climates of growth where people are encouraged to explore their own potential for leadership and professional development.

Why be a generous leader?

There are three reasons for cultivating an atmosphere of generous leadership. First, it is a privilege to come alongside people on their journey. We get invited into the hearts of others. This isn’t a place we usurp; it’s a trust we steward over responsibly.

Second, we grow when we give ourselves away. We create room in our own hearts and minds for more when we are willing to share with others what we have. We increase our own capacity when our focus is on building and encouraging others.

Lastly, we extend our reach and alter our own trajectory as leaders. In his book, The Master Plan of Evangelism, Robert Coleman points out the importance of leaders reproducing themselves in the lives of others. When we share the best of who we are with others, we establish the groundwork for people to continue doing great work even after we have moved on.

Where can generous leadership be found?

Romans 5:5 says "hope doesn't disappoint because the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts by his Holy Spirit." This generous gift of love from God empowers and equips us for goodness and greatness. God’s love has infused our hearts; we are commanded to pour it out on others. He has equipped us to give and serve. In this giving and serving, we engage generous leadership.

As I personally ponder this, I understand Holy Spirit's presence in me as a reflection of God's love for and to me. His love shed abroad in my heart is intended—first—for me. This is important because if I miss that His love is for me first, I won't engage the truth that He also intends to share it with others through me. This is generous leadership—the Father giving us His best at every stage of our development so that we are able to share it to others.

Where else is it found? Generous leadership reveals itself in executive leadership teams who make the conscious decision that the ceiling of the current generation of leaders should be the floor of the next. Doing so requires they attend to what I refer to as The Art of the Dip—being Diligent, Intentional and Purposeful. 

I see it in the worship pastor who has a heart for cross-generational worship and succession planning. He's intentional and diligent about developing a diverse group of worship leaders. He pours out of himself to mentor and disciple other song leaders who will courageously lead congregations in worshiping God.

I see it in the thought leader who intentionally decides that the last thing she needs on her team at work are others like her. She, too, strategically builds a diverse team while keeping succession planning in mind. She provokes critical thought by encouraging employees to “get up on the balcony” to achieve a systems view of activities currently beyond their scope of responsibility. She equips employees through mentoring and provides access to opportunities for professional growth and development.

I also see it in the humble transportation specialist and his bank teller wife. This couple has such a heart for evangelism that they make regular sacrifices of their time and resources to be a part of sharing the Gospel of Christ. Their passion for evangelism provokes them to prioritize their lives so that everything else bows in submission to their love for Christ and their service to the needs of His kingdom. They are willing to go where others won’t to ensure the disenfranchised in our society aren’t left out or forgotten. They strategically purchased their family home to keep themselves “close to the action”—the place God has planted them to do ministry and reach the lost.

All of these beautiful people are models of generous leadership. None of them are famous, and you would not know them if you passed them on the street. However, they are impacting generations of leaders by liberally giving of themselves. 

How can you cultivate a generous leadership climate?

"The generous man will prosper, and whoever refreshes others will be refreshed." (Proverbs 11:25, NASB)

Determine that you will refresh others. This principle in Proverbs represents God’s wisdom on the matter. When we are generous—giving, loving, open-handed—we open the door to amazing possibilities. If you need some initial strategies, try these:

  • Be intentional about acknowledging greatness in others. It’s usually more obvious than we realize. Listen closely as others speak about their hopes, plans and dreams. Set aside your thoughts about your own dreams and allow room in your heart for the dreams of others. Ask how you can support them, and be prepared to step out of your comfort zone as they describe what they need.
  • Be willing to give time and attention as a mentor and guide to others. This might look like sharing your networks with others. Are there people in your network that can enhance and advance the career of another? Do you have access to professional networks and organizations that might help someone else?
  • Be willing to teach others the insights you’ve acquired during your own journey. All of us have lessons we’ve tucked away in our hearts.  Unfortunately, many of us are still waiting for permission to share with others the insights we’ve gleaned along the way. Stop waiting for someone to walk up and grant you permission to build up and encourage others. On that same note, don’t make others beg you for insight either. The insight you have is valuable and can inspire a new generation of leaders. Be bold, be helpful, and be generous!

Go…someone is waiting for you!