From all human qualities and types of character, from all human values and personality traits, from so many character-istics of the human condition, I rate generosity very high, if not at the top. It’s very irrational. I can’t explain it. But when I see it, it makes me pause, and wonder, and celebrate being part of the human tribe.
In the 17th Century it used to mean ‘nobility of birth’. It is indeed a nobility of the human condition that generous men and women exhibit.
Generosity is the extra time that the doctor stays with that patient, not looking at the watch, and explaining, again, what is the situation. As one of the 9 behaviours of the Irish Health system says, it is to ‘explain the now and the next’, to give context to personalise it, to decrease as much uncertainty as possible.
Generosity is giving away more information and insights than needed, or expected, not to withdraw too much; to share precious knowledge and experience and, in doing so, make yourself, perhaps, a little more vulnerable.
Generosity is to make yourself available, to give your cellphone/mobile number in case you need something, to be there when people may need you, when you don’t have to be, you are not required by law, or by contract, or by any binding mechanism.
Generosity is that of the manager who gives extra time and coaches, who is patient and sensitive, who goes the extra mile to provide the insights the learning and the tools for the employee to navigate, and who does all this beyond his job description.
Generosity is the virtue you see when you see it, that surprises you, that makes you feel different.
Generosity is perhaps mainly about your last human asset: time. Money is fine, but it takes a second to write a cheque.
It is interesting that this word has been used many times to refer to specific people. Obama is one of them. I find very interesting that some well-known Obama critics and political opponents have said in recent weeks ‘we will miss his generosity’. What a legacy! To be able to see, I don’t agree with you in many things, but thanks for having been so generous.
I have met many critics of generosity that say that people will abuse, will take you for granted. And indeed, in this post-Darwinian, post-truth, Me-Inc world, generosity may sound like a sort of naïve trait. Or reduced to that chequebook.
I still believe it is at the top, if not at the very top, of the human virtues.
I’d love to see bold HR and OD people, and consultants, and managers, redefine the entire employee competence system by linking the abilities and competencies to virtues, to character. Leadership redefined from the perspective of character, would be a great contribution to all human capital approaches, which need a bit of fresh thinking. I really believe that, in this area, fresh means going back to basics and bring character back.
And generosity, may be one of these ‘learned virtues’ that organizations could easily model and scale.
I want an epidemic, not a collection of anecdotes.