There are a number of rules and laws that are often used to describe leadership, such as Steven Covey’s laws of leadership and specifically the law of reciprocity. This one happens to show up in leadership to me because leadership is so heavily dependent on building great relationships. I believe any leader has to be able to form strong relationships to lead and so I’ve put a spin on this law to look at it more specifically with the joy of reciprocity in relationships. The dictionary definition of reciprocity is:
A mutual or cooperative interchange of favors or privileges, especially the exchange of rights or privileges of trade.
That exchange of favors that seems so natural with benefits for both parties is also, unfortunately, what gets in people’s way before reciprocity ever occurs. People get caught up in looking for the immediate benefit to themselves in many situations and don’t initiate that generous first step of offering their own help or service first. They also often expect a favor in return or feel that they owe someone who has done good to them. This selfish thinking or score keeping often stops a good deed from being done in the first place, which over time limits the good deeds returned. Its a cascade effect and emphasizes cynical thinking and just reinforces the selfish attitude and solitude for an individual.
The law of reciprocity is NOT a law that can be measured in any instance of time or even between the same parties involved for the give and take. It works across ones whole life and so the payback or benefit can’t be recognized by looking at any scorecard with an individual or even in a specific relationship. Its a balance beyond any single measure, any single relationship and even beyond the time you serve here on earth (Romans 2:6 – He will reward each one according to his works)
Instead, what needs to occur is simple generosity. Be willing to offer help, give that time, pay for lunch, make that apology first, share some vulnerable personal story, step out of your comfort zone, make a step in faith, be brave, be first and be generous. Do this without keeping score, offer it every chance you get. Put the effort into your relationships without expectation! Everything about doing this changes your attitude, increases your outlook and joy in life and is eventually paid back, if not immediately, later in life and even in eternity. Every personal connection you develop is another opportunity in your life, both with business colleagues, friendships and family. A generous mind will graciously give AND accept offerings of help, money, service and advice. And these will come to you more naturally, and at the time of need for yourself or others. So, put everything you can into your relationships and experience the joy of that on its own and eventually the joy of the reciprocity that will occur if you simply put in everything you can and let the law of reciprocity occur!
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