Why Leaders Need to Be More Generous

Why leaders need to be more generous

We walked through the entrance doors and the first words out of my wife’s mouth were, “Okay, I take back everything I’ve said because this is a really neat place. I had no idea it would be like this.”

One thing you need to know about Sondra is that when she sets her mind, changing it is almost impossible. If she believes something to be “weird”, it will forever be weird. If she has a bad experience with a type of food, it will take her years before she gives that same type of food a second chance. So when she walked into the Bass Pro Shop and immediately changed her mind, I took note.

Winter Wonderland

I love the Bass Pro Shop, but even I was blown away by their in-store winter wonderland. Sondra and I were immediately met by a free carousel ride. To the right, there were free games for kids to play, including a bow and arrow “knock-down-the-duck” carnival game. However, none of this was the main attraction.

I think it’s safe to assume that every mall in America has a Santa waiting to take a $30 picture with little kiddos. Just last year, my wife and I took Isaiah to see Santa for the very first time. We were compelled to buy the “Tinsel Package” because, after all, it was Isaiah’s first Santa picture.

Before we even parked our car, we noticed many young families making their way inside. The reason: Bass Pro Shop gives out free pictures with Santa. That’s right, free! While every shopping outlet is counting on major dollars coming in from their Santa sweat shop, the Bass Pro Shop is choosing to give rather than receive.

Being A Leader Requires Sacrifice

While it is nothing for consumers to play carnival games, get their free picture with Santa and then leave, the truth is, Bass Pro Shop is giving up a something that is precious. Never mind the Santa and carousel expenses – the real cost is the precious real estate this winter playground consumes. I would guess they give up 15% of their sales-floor square footage to Santa and his winter wonderland.

Like I mentioned above, Sondra immediately changed her mind about the Bass Pro Shop. In the past, when asked if she would go with me, she always declined. Perhaps, she thought she would witness grown men with beards skinning game or be asked to kill a chicken. What was it that changed her mind? It was the economy of generosity that the Bass Pro Shop subscribed to. It allowed her to take down her guard and feel comfortable shopping.

Being a leader requires sacrifice. The more influential you are, the more sacrifice and service will be required of you. The Bass Pro Shop took the risk of giving up thousands of square feet to sell Christmas merchandise in exchange for creating an environment where families could have fun and not spend a dime. It is because of this type of risk-leadership that their store was packed full of families at 6pm on a Wednesday evening.

You Can’t Measure the Return on Generosity

We didn’t purchase any merchandise. As a matter of fact, families were leaving by the dozens and none of them had anything in hand aside from their free Santa picture. On the surface this was a money loser for the Bass Pro Shop. But consider this, as we walked around I heard my wife say: I’m going to plan a time to come here for Santa next year; I take back everything I’ve said; these would make great gifts; oh-look at this!; that was fun.

The Bass Pro Shop was able to give us something we couldn’t buy in any of their aisles: a fun family memory. Sure it cost them a lot up front, but it would appear that they are less concerned with the momentary cost and more concerned with the lifelong value of a customer like my wife. Though a leader can’t always measure the return on generosity, giving creates a powerful connection that will almost certainly pay off in the long run.

[Tweet “Generosity creates a powerful connection that will almost certainly pay off in the long run. – @daveshrein http://bit.ly/1ho0Dem”]

Is Your Leadership Costing You Anything?

Generosity requires risk and will always cost you something… are you willing, as a leader, to take the risk of generosity? Have you taken a risk on generosity in the past and seen any kind of ROI? How would you consult a leader who is contemplating giving away a potential moneymaker out of generosity?