Someone mentioned to me today how funny it is when there is a collection for a birthday, and you see what people donate.  More often than they see the low paid secretaries are donating $10 or $20 and managers, who earn significantly more are only donating $1 or $5.

It’s funny that people think that these things go unnoticed, but it’s these types of incident that say so much about a leader, about how generous they truly are, about their authenticity, and can make or break a reputation in moments.

I remember one my manager I worked with, he always made a big deal of his own generosity and he always highlighted how tight other managers were with their money.

When it was his assistants birthday he invited her out to lunch, along with me and my assistant. He took us to a very nice restaurant, told her how happy he was with her and that she deserved this special treat.

At then end of a vey nice meal, he gave a her a small box which contained a silver bracelet, which was very nice.

She was very touched at his generosity, she could’t believe what a nice boss she had, and said as much.

When we got back to the office, he asked me for a favour, he asked if he could have my assistant do a piece of work for him, as it was his assistants birthday and he wanted to let he go home early. Of course i said yes.

Fifteen minutes later my assistant came into my office, fuming. I asked her what was wrong and she said “you won’t believe this, but he’s asked me to expense both the meal and the birthday present he got for his assistant”.

Thats the reason he wanted a favour, he didn’t want to his assistant to know that his generous offer, which she was so happy about, was not from him at all, but was paid for by the company.

Not only did my assistant share that news with the other assistant, but that news was spread round the entire building within a day.

His reputation was completely blown. In fact his name, which I won’t share, became that standard term for expensing items.

He was never able to live it down.

For the sake of $100 he had shattered his reputation and made himself a figure of fun.

As a leader don’t need to be overly generous, but a selfish leader will never be successful in the long term.

Gordon Tredgold

Leadership Principles