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  • Keith Wells

"Yesterday's logic" won't help: success will require Generosity. (And so will Purpose.)


Ginni Rometty, early in her tenure as CEO of IBM, said "value will not be in what you own, but in what you share". Other leaders have also embraced the idea that success requires generosity: not the limited "giving something back" type, or the "pro bono" conscience-pacifier, but a wider and deeper type.


The best emerging leaders know that other people's success can be more important than their own, or that they should give time for others to share their ideas, or that they should simply recognise the efforts and contributions people make. Adapting Patrick Lencioni's wonderful pyramid model, the successful teams are those that commit to shared goals - and it takes true leadership to make that a reality, and to help people see how the benefits are also shared.


There have been great examples of that kind of generosity through this pandemic. One of the best for us was the way Honda, Toyota and Canon agreed to waive their respective IP ownership of technology or capabilities, that might be pooled in the search for a treatment of Covid-19. The commercial value of that IP was huge, but the prospect of finding that treatment even greater.


This is where we see a direct, but perhaps overlooked, link with the idea of Purpose. The sense of fulfilling a 'bigger idea' necessarily requires people to see that bigger need and impact, and to understand how their role can contribute. It might mean they see no obvious returns - certainly not in the traditional ways that make it through to balance sheets, share price or annual bonuses - but we know that other measures of success are now more meaningful.


It's tempting to predict what changes enforced by this period will be permanent, but one thing we believe will endure is the recognition of the generosity shown by brands and individuals. Reciprocity is critical in any relationship, and will turn "an audience into a community".


We suspect that of all our six Charisma Index definitions, Generosity represents the greatest challenge for leaders. It seems to threaten the very basis on which their success has been judged until now. But that's yesterday's logic. This is the quality that most excites the right type of leader: it will define our recovery from this period, and is absolutely essential for any organisation that believes it is driven by and true to its purpose.

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