Is generosity today’s thought leadership ‘killer app’?

I revisited this Seth Godin article today.

The Great Man rightly states that today’s connection economy is based on generosity. “After all, why would someone want to connect to a selfish organization?” he asks.

But then he also poses the question: “What is generosity?”.

If you want to know what Seth thinks about what it takes to be generous in today’s social age, make sure you read his article. Better still, sign up to his blog — there’s plenty of smart business and marketing goodness there!

However, I want to take the ‘generosity’ strand a bit further into the realm of thought leadership and personal branding.

There are many opinions about what thought leadership is, and isn’t.

Certainly it’s not about beating your chest. Nor is it about pushing your ideas on to others but not having the humility to listen to other people’s points of view. A great thought leader is not inflexible, but they are generous. Often, to a fault.

Generosity in this instance comes in many guises. It’s about:

  • sharing your knowledge, ideas and expertise that will impact positively on others — this can be as simple as a meeting over coffee or a blog post that contains your ‘heart and soul’
  • taking the time to sit on panels at conferences or delivering the odd keynote speech for free that benefits not just the organisers but those attending
  • writing a whitepaper or ebook and giving it away freely via the web
  • creating and/or driving an initiative that will get people talking about an issue or further the education of professionals within a certain industry, or simply allow others to connect and learn from each other.

At a more micro level, generosity can manifest itself in a number of ways:

  • answering people’s questions on Quora or a LinkedIn Group
  • promoting other people’s blog posts using Twitter
  • attending industry functions or coffee meet-ups and chatting with folk about the issues they’re facing and offering advice if it makes sense to do so;
  • putting forth a potential candidate for a job if you think it will benefit both parties
  • lecturing at a university or institute of further education that operates within your industry or profession
  • interviewing another smart player in your industry — maybe a competitor? — who has something to contribute to the conversation around a pertinent issue (record the interview and upload to YouTube so others can learn from the discussion)
  • maybe provide time to someone else so they can interview you and publish on their podcast, regardless of the size of the audience that podcast attracts.

Generosity of spirit

These are important things a key opinion leader can do over time, over and above publishing interesting content that resonates with an audience and empowers and inspires potentially hundreds, even thousands, of people via the social web.

The great thing about generosity of spirit is that it contributes in spades to one’s ‘Village of Support’. And heaven knows, we all need one of those!

If you’re wanting to become a leader of thoughts and ideas in your niche, industry or profession, maybe you need to first ask yourself some hard questions about your willingness to be generous within your community, to give relentlessly without the expectation of getting anything in return. Again, and again… and again.

It’s tough in today’s environment when we’re all pressured for time, but it speaks volumes about you over the journey.