A Season of Generous Leadership


What would you say is the first thing a person must have to be a leader?  Ambition?  Confidence?  Vision?  Intellect?  This would be a fun discussion; don’t you think?

I’d say the first attribute of a leader is generosity.  To lead, by definition, is to reach beyond oneself.  The fundamental leadership attitude is one that works to enhance others, individually and collectively.

So, you might see this month as a leadership season, in that it is a season of generosity, of reaching out to others.  I’ve put a little Christmas-Holiday spin on my website danmulhern.com and offer there some ways to lead and to give; for example, ways to give of your time or treasure.  And since it’s a gift-giving season I have put some of my favorite leadership resources out there, in case you want to give gifts that help others grow.   (Included is my own book Everyday Leadership, which I humbly offer for your consideration).

I’m looking forward to offering you another year of Reading for Leading – it will be my ninth!  In the meantime, I hope this season will bring you depth and strength of generosity to continue to

Lead with your best self.


  • I’m sure you will get lots of other suggstions. Mine would be “Integrity”. Thanks for your “Generosity” in taking the time to do these weekly thoughts in a timely and well considered way. Your efforts are appreciated by me and I’m sure many others.

    Merry Christmas

  • Related to generosity, yet a somewhat different concept, is the desire to do good for those you lead. David Gergen has a good discussion of this in his book “Eyewitness to Power,” which is a study of leadership he saw under four different presidents, from both major political parties. Using this desire to do good (and to do well) as part of the definition of leadership, Hitler and Stalin had plenty of power, but were not leaders. I think it’s evident that there are people in positions of power who want to use that power to further their own careers or pocketbooks, or those of their friends. I look forward to seeing that change in America, and to work to actually make that happen.

  • I believe a key attribute is an honest self appraisal of what you do, and do not, bring to the table. That makes it easier to ask for help, delegate successfully, and truly appreciate the efforts of those around you. It also helps you focus on what you still need to learn and keeps you open to what you may want to emulate in others.

    Dan, thanks for a year of interesting, thought provoking reading. Enjoy your family and friends throughout this Holiday season.

  • One huge question in leadership generosity is: Will Baby Boomers (www.SoBabyBoomer.com) give of their time and talents in their phased retirement?

    As millions of people in their 50s and 60s exit the corporate world, many will search for “encore careers” in the public and nonprofit sectors….following JFK’s challenge to: Ask not what the country can do for me but what can I do for my country?

    Boomers’ leadership is needed today. More at: http://coachingtip.blogs.com/so_baby_boomer/2007/12/boomers-leaders.html

  • It will be important for many people to understand “generosity” is an attribute that defines how a leader is with their own time and money–not with their company’s, their government’s, or other people’s. There’s nothing charitable about giving away what isn’t your own to give.

    It has been said by more than one great leader that leaders should seek to serve, and it is in serving they may become great leaders. How can I serve my employees? How can I make their jobs easier and remove obstacles? How might I listen and be understanding without indulging?

    I liked David Thomas’ recommendation of integrity. There’s a lot rolled-up into that single word. I would never expect someone with integrity to fool themselves into thinking they’re generous when it is not with their own resources.

  • A leader should be in balance.There are people who are givers,and takers.Takers have trouble giving.Givers have trouble receiving(takers).To be in balance a person should have the wisdom to know when one or the other is needed.That would alow a person to look at the facts and make a decision
    thats best for those he or she will lead.

  • Before one can exude “generosity”, one must be able to LISTEN – what is it that an employee is saying he/she needs – how do they learn – what ideas do they express for the company as well as themself – how do they see their future?? Being able to LISTEN reminds me of a childhood jingle, “Stop, Look n Listen before you cross the street – use your eyes, use your ears, and then use your feet” Thanks Dan for your continuing “generosity” in producing a bit of motivation each week. You have obviously listened. 🙂

  • Dan, thank you for your leadership this year; my first year in getting your “Monday report”. We have shared many of these and discussed them fully at our Cabinet and Administrative Team level – we have learned from then and they have made an impact on our ability to ‘lead with our best self’. Happy Holidays to you and your family.

  • Leadership is a complicated entity because it incorporates a bundle of ideals, each of which could take on varying levels of importance depending on who you ask.

    I am challenged by your question here, Mr. Mulhern, because it compels me to consider what quality a great leader should exhibit first. It may be easier to think of leadership qualities like the ones you have listed, but so much harder to prioritize them. Maybe they are fluid, and incapable of classification by priority. Alternatively, maybe placing them into a hierarchical order is the only way to make sense of them. A third theory is that because generosity itself is associated with many other desirable characteristics (giving, reaching out, helping, listening), you may be suggesting it is first because it includes all of what we desire from a great leader.

    Reaching beyond oneself includes vision to see the ball; ambition to move it; and intellect to plan its execution in a playing field where confidence fuels action. I think your message to “lead with your best self” initiates the mindset to begin this process.

  • Good post. You make some great points that most people do not fully understand.

    “I’d say the first attribute of a leader is generosity. To lead, by definition, is to reach beyond oneself. The fundamental leadership attitude is one that works to enhance others, individually and collectively.”

    I like how you explained that. Very helpful. Thanks.

  • >