Independence & Generosity, The Good & The Bad


“Culture is what people do when no one is looking.” Herb Kelleher, Former Chairman of Southwest Airlines

To rewind a bit and resume our place in the story . . .

In “Belonging To A Warrior Culture,” we discussed value of creating a sense of belonging in the workplace. We recognized that the lines between our personal and work lives have blurred, so now employees expect to find meaning, belonging, and happiness as well as a paycheck. We expanded our understanding of how to create a healthy corporate culture in “To Hit Your Numbers, Aim For Mastery,” which noted the value of mastery within an individual and across a tribe. We asserted that if an expert within a group were perceived as “only proficient,” non-experts would have undue influence resulting in poor outcomes, delays in decisions, and diminished morale.

Recall that the Lakota Tribe’s “Circle of Courage” states that a balanced and profound sense of belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity is critical to the healthy development of a tribe and its members. This brings us to our last discussion – the importance of fostering independence and a sense of generosity within a culture.

Independence is the ability to be self-reliant, self-regulated, and self-motivated. Independent people easily accept responsibility, routinely make good decisions, and are viewed as trustworthy by other members of the tribe. Survival outside of the bounds of the Lakota territory once depended upon a member’s ability to make good independent judgments. This skill was so important that children were given progressive amounts of autonomy beginning early in childhood.

Conversely, people who lack independence feel helpless, disorganized, and believe they have little influence in the direction of their life or their tribe’s. They require high levels of mentoring and supervision. Unfortunately, dependent people may engage in reckless or irresponsible behaviors and blame others for the results of their actions.

The Work
In order to foster a sense of independence,

– provide incremental opportunities for people to apply the skills they have mastered

– make training relevant to learner’s needs and interests

– when possible, allow for choices – in assignments, collaborations, work hours

– instill responsibility for decisions with an understanding that each decision should the best decision given information and choices available

– provide incremental opportunities for individuals to assume leadership roles

– provide individual as well as group projects

– help people understand and honestly evaluate their skill levels and abilities

-model and value an independent spirit and mindset by cultivating big ideas and outside of the box thinking

– model and reinforce trust, respect, and dignity. Do not tolerate bad actions.

Generosity¬†is a person’s contribution to the tribe’s greater good and his significance to others. “What’s mine is yours because we are one” is a typical theme that resonates throughout a healthy culture. Generosity is not a behavior that results in a physical reward. Rather, the reward is the feeling of contributing to the greater good of the tribe. It is not only important to model generosity but it is just as important to promote ways to help each other and appreciate acts of generosity. Generosity completes the Circle of Courage and is the fulfillment of a person’s belonging, mastery, and independence.

The Work
In order to foster a sense of generosity,

– engage in routine conversations about the importance of generosity, not only in

personal growth but also in the healthy development of the tribe

– provide meaningful ways for people to help others, within the group and the community at large

– openly model acts of kindness and helping others

– celebrate big and little acts of generosity and say thank you for all involved

– help others understand the impact of kindness by focusing on the impact of the generous act(s)

– weave the spirit of generosity into your brand – we are Nike, therefore we give back