The law of giving

A leader's role is to turn the conditioned efforts of team members towards unconditional giving.

Published: 21st March 2021 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th March 2021 04:19 PM   |  A+A-

Gift, Surprise, Eternal Flowers

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Many times a day, I realise how much my own inner and outer life is built on the labours of other men, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received'. These are not the words of a saint but a scientist, Albert Einstein, whose life was a search for the eternal truths of life.

A conscious leader understands the paradox of nature, in which the law of giving functions in the reverse direction to the law of grabbing. As one grabs more money, power and status, one accumulates. As one hoards what one has accumulated, one grows poorer and poorer.

This poverty is the outcome of the limiting law of material wealth. All material wealth diminishes in time and in unfavourable circumstances.The grabbing mind is forever insecure that its wealth will be taken away by someone else.When the flower blooms, bees come to it without invitation.

Leaders learn through experience that the law of giving results in the flowering of a new state of consciousness. This state of consciousness activates the affluence or the ‘flowing in’ of the bounty of material nature.

Consciousness, which is spiritual affluence, is the primal cause, and material affluence is the consequence. Between the cause and the consequence, what operates is the mechanics of the law of giving.

Self-managed teams in contemporary organisations energise themselves by means of the principle of self-giving. For that matter, no teamwork can happen without unconditional giving by team members. Team spirit is developed when giving happens spontaneously.

Mother Teresa told her sisters in the Missionaries of Charity, ‘Give till it hurts.’ In organisational teamwork, members give their labour, their knowledge and their attention. They also lend their ears and voices. Finally, they give their heart and their spirit.

Leadership is the task of orchestrating of the unique gifts that each team member brings to the organisation. A leader’s role is to turn the conditioned efforts of team members towards unconditional giving.Takers, givers, matchers: Science of happiness!

If you want a minute of happiness, let a spoonful of ice cream melt on your tongue. The ice cream may stay a short while on your lips but remain for a lifetime on your hips! If you truly wish for a lifetime of happiness, dissolve your ego in the service of another.

The business of happiness is not just a private affair. Happiness has become a state subject governmental concern. I was invited to visit Bhutan and Dubai once and had the privilege of meeting some of the stalwarts involved with the business of happiness.

Bhutan was creating a measure of growth by substituting GDP with GNH, or gross national happiness. The United Arab Emirates appointed a new Minister of Happiness, Ms Ohood Al Roumi, whose job description was, simply, to put the happiness of citizens at the forefront of the government’s priorities. Thailand is working on its own national happiness index.

Happiness has become a sizzling subject of academic as well as corporate interest all over the world. Jeffrey Sachs, a very eminent academic and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, says, "Measuring self-reported happiness and achieving well-being should be on every nation’s agenda as they begin to pursue the Sustainable Development Goals…."

 Adam Grant, a Wharton Business School professor, classified a large sample of people he researched in three categories: takers, givers and matchers. Here is how I would classify takers, givers and matchers. Think of a whole class of college guys going to celebrate graduation in a restaurant.

The takers will expect someone else to pay for their food, the givers will be the first ones to offer to pay for everyone. The matchers will want to go Dutch so that everyone shares equally. Grant’s startling research finding demonstrates this: Givers sink to the bottom of the success ladder in academic as well as professional life.

Across a wide range of important occupations, givers appear at a disadvantage; they make others better off but sacrifice their own success in the process. The takers seem to surge ahead of the givers because they concentrate on fulfilling their personal agenda ahead of others.

The matchers are like whistle-blowers, they keep a watch over takers so that they don't exploit other people. 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 Grant took another look at the data, he discovered a surprising pattern: It is the givers, again, who rise to the top of the success ladder. The takers and matchers stagnate in the middle. My own research shows that givers grow to the top by creating social capital.

Social capital multiplied by their intellectual capital becomes their reputation capital. It is their reputation as large-hearted people that propels givers right to the top in the long run. Grant’s research tells us that being a giver may not be good for a 100 metres dash, but it is valuable in a marathon.

If you wish to take your first firm steps towards happiness, move from your self-centred to the other-centred universe. Think of a few things you can do where you can put the best interest of others ahead of your own.

The Dalai Lama gives you a solid spiritual reason to be other-centred. He advises people to cultivate the understanding that the self is not really an independently existing entity. He urges us to begin to view our self instead, in terms of its dependent relation to others.

Although it is difficult to say that merely reflecting on this will produce profound happiness, it will at least have some effect. Your mind will be more open. Something will begin to change within you. Therefore, even in the immediate term, there is definitely a positive and beneficial effect in moving from self-centeredness to other-centeredness, from belief in self-existence to belief in dependent origination.

What do you think is the opposite of happiness? No, it is not sadness. To be sad and happy are like the trough and crest of the wave called life. They come together like winter and spring, rain and sunshine, shade and light. The opposite of happiness is selfishness.

When we live in a self-centred rather than the other-centred universe, our life force shrinks like a rain-starved river. When we share our abundance with others, the same life force grows and makes us happy. Think of someone who wins a lottery yet has no one to share his fortune with. Do you think he will be a happy man?

Next time, when you buy two scoops of your favourite ice cream from a confectionary, just look around to see if you can find an undernourished boy who works 14 hours a day in a nearby tea stall. If you wish, just share one scoop of your ice cream with him. Chances are your experiment in being a giver will result in a broader smile and slimmer hips!

(Excerpted from Karma Sutras: Leadership and Wisdom for Uncertain Times by Debashis Chatterjee, published under the SAGE IIM-Kozhikode Series for New Managers by SAGE Publications India)


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