In leadership, don’t look the other way

We all have chances to help those struggling instead of looking the other way — or justifying doing nothing.

Why it matters: This mindset applies to leadership, as well as life. We try hard to apply these principles at work — paying close attention and swarming when people hit ruts.

Confession: Well into my late 20s, I often flinched at giving money to a homeless person, rationalizing that I might be enabling laziness or drug use.

  • My wife Autumn is the opposite. She always gives money and engages every person in need.
  • One day, with the kids in the backseat, she pushed back against my view, saying: “If I’m going to make a mistake, I want to err on the side of giving a drug addict money rather than not giving a hungry person means to eat that day.”

She changed my mind about generosity. More importantly, she inspired our kids (on their good days) to adopt a similar help-don’t-hide approach to people in need.

What this might look like in regular life or at work:

  1. If you see need, act: It is so easy to see someone in need, on the street or in the office, and convince yourself it’s none of your business — or that someone else will step up. Be the one who takes action.
  2. If you wonder, ask: I am an introvert, so my natural instinct is to keep to myself. People like me need to force themselves to simply ask if someone needs a hand when things seem off. This remains a struggle for me.
  3. Err on the side of generosity: Autumn is right. Are you ever going to feel bad about giving money or time to others? Never. “Our job is to give. Let God decide if the recipient did good with your gift,” she says.
  4. Surround yourself with givers: All habits are contagious. Between Autumn and my parents, who give all their time and focus to their kids even though we’re adults, I am smothered by givers. It can’t help but rub off.
  5. Others are watching: You will be surprised how many watch and copy you. All actions are contagious — and goodness spreads just as easily as badness.

Zoom in: At Axios, chief of staff Kayla Cook Brown, our first hire before we had a name or an office, is the heart and soul of our company (see above).

  • She’s our don’t-look-away specialist, always aware of who’s up, who’s down. She’ll constantly point out who needs a pick-me-up — and usually know the perfect word or gesture for the moment.
  • Every person and workplace needs Kaylas.

 Editor’s note: This article appeared in Axios Finish Line, a new newsletter in the Axios Daily Essentials package. Sign up here for free.


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