Everyone tends to focus on things that must be accomplished. Tasks at work, errands to complete before heading home, or emails and reports to read or write fill up our days, and sometimes nights, too. It’s easy to lose sight of other aspects of our life, such as generosity and compassion, when we’re constantly racing from one task to another.

Fortunately, society is beginning to focus on collaboration instead of competition. This “race to the top” mindset isn’t sustainable. In Leadership is Upside Down, generosity is defined as the kind disposition and altruistic manner that a person displays when dealing and interacting with others.1

People who are able to think beyond themselves instead of only focusing on winning will be more flexible and likely to develop a win-win mindset. Doing good things for others isn’t just good for them, it’s good for you, too. When we volunteer on a regular basis, we are more likely to strengthen our altruistic and empathetic behaviours, resulting in better mental and physical health.

Leaders often have opportunities to mentor, coach, teach or listen to those they collaborate and work with. People will appreciate the time and support you give them, and they will be more likely to feel engaged and connected with their teams and organisations. The spirit of cooperation and a capacity for solidarity are more valuable than selfishness and greed.

Supporting Generosity With Neuroscience 

Collaboration is not possible when we remain in the limbic brain, which is most concerned with our own survival. Our society typically instils a deep sense of competition within us, beginning from early childhood. We compete as children, trying to get better grades or kick the ball further & these behaviours persist into adulthood. Many times, we only choose to be generous if it somehow benefits ourselves.2

The irony is, we do benefit from being generous, even if we don’t understand the intrinsic value of generosity. Neuroscience has proposed several mechanisms to explain altruistic giving. Oxytocin, a neurotransmitter in the brain, is often referring to as the “love hormone” because it plays a major role in social interactions. One research study found subjects with increased oxytocin (given intranasally) were 80% more generous than subjects given a placebo. Also, areas of the brain rich in oxytocin receptors showed increased activation when people made charitable donations.3

4 Ways To Become More Generous As A Leader

Generosity means giving, but it’s more than simply writing a check or dropping off old clothing. It means giving yourself the gift of happiness and the understanding that you are improving someone else’s life. Consider these tips to become a more generous leader and person in general.

  1. Grow your generous spirit. Even though we expect children to share, we tend to become possessive as we age. Break away from this mindset and create a happier, healthier version of yourself.
  2. Say thank you. Start small by thanking people around you. A short note or a text can mean the world to someone else, and showing appreciation to others may inspire them to follow suit.
  3. Cook for your friends. Friends and family provide your foundation for good times and support for bad times. Cultivate your friendships by making an effort to cook and entertain for your friends.
  4. Think beyond yourself. When we drop the need to always compete, and instead focus on collaboration, we can generate a sense of collective energy. Generosity isn’t typically associated with business, but it’s so important to help us be happier and more successful at work.

When we become more generous, the effects will compound in our personal and professional lives. The i4 Neuroleader Model can help you learn more about the connections between generosity and the brain, and how to improve overall health. By embracing the latest advances from neuroscience and neuroleadership, we can become the leaders of the future.


1. Damiano S, Cubeiro JC, de Haas T. Leadership is Upside Down: The i4 Neuroleader Revolution. About my Brain Institute. 2014.
2. McLennan K. Building Leaders for the Imagination Age: The Case for the i4 Model.  About my Brain Institute. 2016;1. [White Paper].
3. Zak PJ, Stanton AA, Ahmadi S. Oxytocin Increases Generosity in Humans. PLoS ONE. 2007; 2(11): e1128.

Originally posted on: 28 May 2019
Last updated on: 12 April 2024

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Silvia Damiano

Silvia Damiano

Founder & CEO
About my Brain Institute

Scientist, educator, author, speaker, coach, award-winning leadership specialist, filmmaker and creator of the i4 Neuroleader Model & Methodology.

Silvia's scientific background and curiosity about the human brain led her to a decade long journey of research into optimal brain functioning and the application of neuroscience in leadership and daily life. Her past and current roles have uniquely prepared her for the current undertaking, that of leadership activist & change agent.

Silvia Damiano founded The About my Brain Institute in 2009, with the purpose of democratising leadership & neuroscience. She has a passionately held belief, that leaders in our 21st century global economy and their organisations must radically change long-held ideas of what constitutes effective leadership

In her ground-breaking books ‘Leadership is Upside Down’, ‘Brain-Friendly Leadership’ and the 2018 documentary ‘Make Me A Leader’, Silvia provides both compelling evidence and explores the importance of leadership in our personal and professional lives and what it takes to develop the human behind the leader.

Silvia has worked in different countries, across many industries, helping teams and organisations improve business performance. Silvia’s clients have described her as a passionate, dynamic, a highly experienced speaker and master facilitator on the topics of Emotional Intelligence, Cultural Change, Neuroleadership & Engagement.

Silvia is passionate about leaving a legacy of well-rounded leaders who can act and decide in a way that better serves humanity. Her clients include Microsoft, Australian Stock Exchange, NSW Government, VISA, Fuji Xerox and Manpower amongst many other global companies.

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