Idea #39: the power of giving

by Van Bo Le-Mentzel

Are you more the kind of Taker-type, Giver-type or Barter-type? For Adam Grant, one of the youngest professors at the Wharton Business School Pennsylvania (USA), there are these three characters, that rule the world. The taker-type is a career focused person who is trained to use ellbows. The Giver-type is altruistic and focusses on the wellbeing of his team, he cares more for his environment than for himself. And the Barter-type knows how to use ellbows, but he is not mean and also support others and even competitors when he sees an advantage for himself. The barter-type helps others as long as they help him out, too. Giving and taking should be balanced and there is nothing wrong about taking a little bit more than what you have given. The question, obviously a quite easy one, is: Who wins Monopoly if these three types were playing against each other. You probably say: The Taker-guy or the barter-guy, right? Someone like the Giver-guy who cares too much for his rivals can not make it to purchase all streets. And guess what – you are right. Giver-types earn 14 % lower wages than others (because they are not demanding). Giver-types are said to have 22% less influence and power than Taker-types. And the risk to be robbed in the streets is double as high as the risk for Taker-types, who obviously send out signals of not being an easy victim. Giver-types are the loosers of the society. So far so good.
Which leaves us to the question: Who reigns at the top notch boards in governments, companies and other organisations. Look at presidents, premier ministers, CEO’s and the big bosses. Who reigns there: The Taker-type or the barter-type?
You won’t believe it. Again, it’s the Giver-type! Taker-types climb up fast the hierarchy of a company that’s why you find them in high positions, but rarely really on top. The barter-type is a good networker, that’s why he will always find himself anchored in high positions, but on top it’s not him. It’s the Giver!
The explanation is plausible. Takers are successful, but at the expense of others. That means the more the takers are winning the more enemies they have. And those enemies are the basic hindrance for takers to get to the top. Same thing happens to barter-types. Barter people have more supporters in a company than takers, but they prefer to help the most popular giver to heave him on the top rather than a nice barter-guy or an ambitious taker. Takers don’t support barter people to get on top because they simply do not support anybody, so the barter-people are always stuck in the middle management. On a shortterm basis of course everyone can make it to to the top but only the givers can stay there on a longterm perspective. Look at the german chancellors of the last decades: Angela Merkel, Gerhard Schröder, Helmut Kohl. Gerhard Schröder, as a successful manager, represents the typical barter-type. He made it but couldn’t handle the top position for a long time. Angela Merkel is evidently not a taker, probably a giver. And she today is still in charge after three legislature periods. And Helmut Kohl holds the record: 16(!) fucking years! You can think about him what you want, but Kohl definitely was a giver. He supported a lot of politicians, he “made” Angela Merkel. And he also gave a lot to a number of dubious pledgers. And till today, he protects them and doesn’t reveil the names. He also gave away all of his private social life for the party (his wife committed suicide and his son hates him). Being corrupt is on the one hand criminal (what I judge), but on the other hand: keep the mouth shut to protect friends is loyality. Kohl can not lose more than the pledgers have to lose. He does a big favor to these pledgers. This is a giver’s move. Adam Grant also describes in his book “Give and take” the rise of one of the most popular presidents in US history: Abraham Lincoln. This man was a true giver, Adam Grant assumes in his book. Lincoln supported the anti slavery movement, he supported his colleagues and even his competitors. He once let his competitor James Trumbull take the lead, although he was far more popular than Trumbull. The reason: The popular gouvernor Joel Matteson began to candidate, but Lincoln knew: Matteson was a corrupt politician and not interested in the wellbeing of the nation. Lincolns target was not to win. His aim was to find the best leader for the society and surely Matteson wasn’t (it turned out later that Lincoln was right). With the help of Lincoln Trumbull was fought and his rival Trumbull won the candidacy, after Lincoln has withdrawn his candidacy for Trumbull’s sake. Actually Lincoln failed a thousand times in his life. But the ones that he used to support mobilised the required tailwind to bring him the highest top position that one can have in the government: Lincoln became president and till today he is the unbeaten role model for generations to follow. He also helped some of his rivals to get in high positions as the president. Reminds us of Barack Obama, who made his biggest rival Hillary Clinton to get into ministry. The most popular leading giver ever probably was Nelson Mandela. Actually he was more than a giver – a forgiver. But that’s another story.
So what is the lesson we learn from this? Givers are bad in wining games like Monopoly or candidatures. Givers earn less money, their kindness might get abused on a shortterm perspective. But on a longterm perspective givers will win the top positions, not because they fight for it. Because people make them a leader. Givers are the losers in competition, but the winners in life.

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