Monday, September 30, 2013

Generosity - what is it?

Definitions include: giving without expectation of receiving; free from small-mindedness; a large portion; and the trait of greater goodness.  Generosity is something that anyone can offer and is highly-valued. Often associated with the traits of kindness and altruism, generosity can be held up as a symbol of our humanity.

I’m just not convinced about the definitions and their application. If I give “till it hurts” but someone else deems my donation as “not enough”, whose view wins? The reverse is also true – what may be a small, simple act on my part can be perceived as abundance to someone else. In seeking to appear “generous” in spirit or action, are we setting the bar too high (or low)?

Does generosity play a role in building community – mentoring and/or networking? Absolutely.  Generosity is almost an unspoken contract that we will make our time/expertise/networks available to each other as requested… which is not the dictionary definition but can still make someone’s day.

So is generosity all perception? Or is it measurable? Where does this trait fit in the leadership tool box?

For more fodder on this debate – see the Science of Generosity at the University of Notre Dame.

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