December is the month of giving, generosity and being grateful. Likewise, genuine leadership is also about giving, generosity and gratefulness. For it is true--the greatest leaders are “givers, not takers.” Giving is going the extra mile, seeing the best in people, not merely using them for personal gain. The goal is to give without even thinking of what you will receive in return.
I once wrote to a colleague asking him for advice about my business. He was primarily interested in what I could buy from him and was reluctant to give me advice. The “taking” trait can sometimes be very subtle, but it is a telltale sign that generosity is not the person’s strong point.
On the other hand, when I approached a different colleague, he was entirely the opposite. He was determined to meet my needs first, and not once did he speak about himself. I grew to trust this person, and ended up doing business with him because he cared about me, which gave me a feeling of value and that my needs were sincerely being considered. He listened to me and used a great deal of empathy. Consequently, this man received my business because of these traits.
Giving is a crucial leadership quality in the big scheme of things. It’s about building solid relationships, developing trust with an individual, understanding that the other person’s needs are a priority. Going the extra mile in the long run returns more, rather than less, to the giver.
Giving can be one of those mysterious leadership qualities that can also be somewhat elusive. Even though it sounds like a “soft” leader quality, the capacity to give makes a huge difference because it comes back to you in surprising ways. Gratefulness is a quality that goes hand in hand with giving. Telling people out loud what you are grateful for, can be even a stronger leader quality that impacts both the giver and receiver.
Givers build relationships before they build business. Givers see the best in people and know the value of the relationship grows, which is why the story about Matthew is so poignant. He had vision and saw a need, provided a solution, started the giving process and it grew into something more than himself. Matthew is one of the future leaders who is changing the world.
Socks From the Heart
by Sue Tornai
Meet eleven-year-old Matthew Johnson, a young leader in the Sacramento, California. October finds him collecting socks for the homeless. Since the age of four, Matthew has had a heart for the poor. Scenes on TV of people who do not have homes, warm clothes or shoes make him sad.
Matthew served the homeless a Thanksgiving meal at a neighborhood church in 2010. Later he talked about the day with his mother. “I saw the man we often see at the post office,” he said. “His name is Robert. He was friendly and asked me what hobbies I had—what I liked to do. I told him I liked outer space. He talked a long time about space and suggested some movies I might enjoy.” Matthew said Robert and many of the people who ate the turkey dinner did not have socks, shoes or coats. He didn’t understand how God would allow people to go without their basic needs. That’s when Matthew began to realize that we are called to be “Jesus with skin on.”
His mom asked him if he would like to do something for the homeless. Matthew’s face brightened. “Sure, let’s do coats.” The two discussed the bulkiness and expense of collecting coats and agreed to collect socks.
Matthew got permission from his school principal and a couple churches to collect socks for the homeless. This was just before his eighth birthday. That year he collected 3,000 pairs of socks. Every year since then Matthew asked God to help him make a difference—to reach more people and more families. In 2013 he set a lofty goal to collect 10,000 pairs of socks by October 31.
Matthew and his mom learned about a girl in Kentucky who also collected socks for the poor and sent her seven-dozen pairs. In early December Matthew and his mom counted the socks and realized they were 4,000 pairs of socks short of their goal.
The host of Good Day Sacramento invited him to be on the show along with the founders of Bombas Sock Company. For every pair of socks sold, Bombas donates a pair. They surprised Matthew when they announced they would meet his goal and donated 4,000 pairs of socks to Socks from the Heart to the Homeless, the nonprofit organization Matthew and his parents developed to collect the socks.
“This was kind of like the miracle of Jesus feeding the five thousand with the loaves and fishes,” Matthew said. “The Lord fed a crowd of more than 5,000 men from a boys lunch. I gave a few socks to the girl and God multiplied my gift through Bombas to meet my goal.”
With a little help, Matthew delivered the socks to Sacramento’s Union Gospel Mission, The Salvation Army, Mustard Seed School, The Gathering Inn, and Safe Haven Church.
Today more than 600,000 people are homeless in the United States. The challenge might seem too big, but it doesn’t slow Matthew down. He says he’s making a small difference in a big world. His compassion is contagious and more churches, schools and businesses in the Sacramento Valley have joined with Socks from the Heart to help the poor. He encourages others to find ways they can help in their communities. Visit him on Facebook here. You can help Matthew by purchasing socks from Bombas. Include HELPMATTHEW in the promo code section. For every pair purchased, the donated pair will go to Socks from the Heart.