Leadership Tactic #39: Broadcast Altruism

I used to think that the best way to be a good person was to do good things and not take credit for them. Take ego out of the equation and anonymously help other people, improve the world, do your siblings’ chores, etc.

But I’m officially changing my stance on that philosophy. I say if you do something good, not only is it fine to tell other people, but it’s better to tell others than to keep the good deed to yourself.

I was thinking about this when I went to the Red Cross to donate blood the other day. It would have been very easy for me not to tell anyone that I gave blood that day. But instead, I checked in on FourSquare and broadcasted it on Twitter and Facebook.

My hope is that a few people saw that I gave blood and thought–even for a second–that they should give blood. I know a lot of people who are perfectly able to donate, but they simply aren’t willing. I don’t condemn those people, nor am I taking a holier-than-thou stance on blood donations, but I hope in some way that my actions give others permission to donate as well. Maybe inspire them. Maybe shame them a little.

If you keep your good deeds to yourself, you’re doing a disservice to the charities you care about, and you’re not giving your friends credit for the compassion you value in them. I almost wish there was a website where you could see the organizations to which your friends donate time and money (not necessarily the exact amount, but maybe tiered levels), and why they choose those organizations. I think a resource like that could make us all a little more generous, a little more altruistic.

What do you think? At the very least, can any harm come to broastcasting your altruism to the world?

5 thoughts on “Leadership Tactic #39: Broadcast Altruism”

  1. You put it perfectly, Jamey. I, too, used to believe that a genuinely good person wouldn’t do good deeds to receive credit. So, at one point, I tried to keep my altruistic actions a secret. I realize now that I had started with the kernel of a right idea, but I was applying it incorrectly. I still think it’s important not to become a servant to my ego. But just because we acknowledge our accomplishments doesn’t make us egomaniacs. Sometimes, it makes us role models, sometimes it inspires others to action, and sometimes it inspires us to continue doing right when we feel the acknowledgment of others. Even the Bible suggests that we should not hide a candle under a bushel. And, every now and then, the reasonable feeding and care of a reasonable-sized ego helps us to believe that we have the power to make a difference… which keeps us aiming to do just that.

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  2. I totally agree. The trick is to broadcast your actions ways that say “Look, here’s how you can join me in helping others” and not “Look how awesome I am for helping others.”

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  3. Matthew 6:1-4, “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee (, check not in, nor tweet), as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.”

    The bible is not a trump card, but it does pull weight with a number of people.

    I agree with Bob. Leading by example is admirable. That by making others aware of your actions, they may be called to action is good. But that this may promote you as an individual, or that their actions come about by shame is demoralizing. Organizing opprotunities for others to do good may be a better solution.

    You don’t need to hide who you are, but I don’t think it needs to be posted from the rooftops either. Those who know you pick up on the kind of person you are without the advertizement.

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  4. When I donated blood last week, for the first time, I was handed a sticker to wear that said “Be nice to me today because I donated blood’. I had wondered if I wore it, would I be given a discounted ice cream cone, which is where I was headed. But then I did not want to boast of my gift of blood. And yet, when you do let people know that you did something like that, it can lead to an opportunity to ask them them to join the cause. The key words are ‘lead to an opportunity’. To get people to join a cause needs to be in a way that they think that it is their idea not yours. All good thoughts to ponder.

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  5. Thank you all for your comments. I’m glad it’s not just me who realizes the power of humbly broadcasted altruism.

    Like many of you say, the key is that it’s not about you. It’s about doing good. And by showing others that you made the choice to do some good gives them an opportunity to think about doing something good as well.

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