When it comes to leadership give and take, “givers,” if taken advantage of too often, will eventually withdraw.  I’ve been writing about the paradox of leadership give and take.  What I’ve seen in my coaching practice is when givers become leery and withdraw giving to avoid being hurt, they become completely ineffective. Ultimately, the “takers” are granted control.

Fortunately, this “doormat” state is avoidable. Givers can learn to trust with greater discernment, spotting genuine givers from takers in sheeps’ clothing. To do this, they raise their level of observation.

Discerning Trust

  • Get to know people and watch their behavior. Remember that agreeable people are not necessarily givers. Look for motives and values as true indicators rather than outer appearances. Wait for clues, such as shallowness or true genuineness. Observe how they treat others. Notice if they regard themselves highly or not.
  • Adjust your approach to suspected takers. According to Adam M. Grant, author of Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success (Penguin 2013), if there is a lack of reciprocity, become a “matcher,” someone who will give, but conditionally. Giving is done with the agreement that the other person gives back. Assertiveness is appropriate to require fair and honorable exchanges.
  • Learn to say no, but do it considerately. Giving leaders can reduce their exposure and find another resource to meet someone’s needs, and observe how that transpires. If there is cooperation and reciprocation, then the giving faucet can be opened up again, while continuing to assess the indicators.

Givers are a vital key to organizational success, and are responsible for the success of many others. They understand that winning doesn’t require someone else lose.  There are enough credits and rewards for everyone.  Takers draw life out of an organization, and leaders are wise to avoid those behaviors.  A coach or trusted colleague can help with this.

Giving doesn’t require major sacrifices or deeds. It just requires caring about others and sharing what you have inside. Try to emulate the spirit of the giver, and see what good things happen.

What do you think? Have you seen this scenario play out at your company?   We are all a giver or a taker – what has been your experience?  At your company are leaders challenged with trust, boundaries, or assertiveness?  I’d love to learn about your experiences.  You can reach me here  and on LinkedIn.