Leadership Give and Take: Strengthening the Giver’s Image

In previous posts I’ve been writing about the paradox of leadership give and take. The majority of employees see their bosses fitting the mold of the “takers”, putting their needs first and working their way up the corporate ladder effectively.

Conversely, “givers”, who put their needs last, are seen as weak, interdependent, insecure, and not as likely to advance. Again, cultural experience makes some of these things seem factual, but looking deeper reveals another reality.

So if givers are most likely to land at the bottom of the success ladder, who’s at the top—takers or matchers?  Neither. When I took another look at the data, I discovered a surprising pattern: It’s the givers again.” ~ Adam M. Grant, Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success (Penguin 2013)

Giving leaders can be very effective overall because of how they enrich those around them.  But giving is, after all, an unnatural conduct in the tough corporate environment. The giving leader can fear appearing soft, and this can deter them from giving, by acting more like people expect. This helps no one. But fortunately givers can raise their stock by busting the common myths about givers.


  • Giving leaders can be firm, yet kind. Helping can require expectations or accountability, and still enhance engagement. A giving demeanor can be serious, yet fair―tough yet appreciative. These are not mutually exclusive traits. They work very well together.
  • Givers can be results-oriented, without being critical, threatening, or inconsiderate, like takers tend to be. Employees want to be held accountable and led well with conviction under defined expectations. The giver is perfectly positioned to do this, and to do it in a way people respect and admire.

“Every time we interact with another person at work, we have a choice to make: do we try to claim as much value as we can, or contribute value without worrying about what we receive in return?”  ~ Adam M. Grant

Do you see successful give and take where you work? Did “givers” get to the top without cutting others down, and find ways of expanding opportunities for all stake-holders?  Get in touch I’d love to hear about your experiences!. I can be reached here and on LinkedIn.