If you are like most people, when answering this question you probably would say "I'm a giver, not a taker."
These terms are so engrained in our minds to be synonymous with bad and good, that it is hard to envision any situation where "giving" isn't always good or "taking" isn't always bad. In other words, regardless of the situation, it's bad to "take" and it's good to "give"
Well, not exactly.
The paradox of leadership means that it often requires more taking than giving. When we take, we actually allow others to give. Leadership is about receiving what others have to give and contribute, without exerting our will over them or the situation.
Our society and culture are so focused with giving at all costs that we forget to receive, or worst yet, we equate receiving with "taking," which in other words means that it is "not good."
Being able to receive is a compassionate and gracious act.
When I go for my morning runs, I often see a mentally and physically disabled young woman out walking with her caretaker. She has two different caretakers that alternate working with her and they each have two very different styles. One of the caretakers frequently has her arms around her tightly and is seemingly guiding her every step. The other is walking two to three steps ahead of her and will frequently circle back to her.
On the surface, one might "judge" these caretakers and say that the first is the "giving" one and therefore the better caretaker. The second one is perhaps not as giving, and therefore not as good.
But, the face of the young woman tells it all. She is looking downward and cringing as she walks with the smothering and giving caretaker. Yet, she is wide-eyed and visibly excited when walking on her own... steps behind the other.
The negative side of "giving" is that we can easily mask our want to control others and demand our own way, under the auspices of giving or helping others. When the real giving is in the taking or receiving of others, regardless of the outcome.
So, this holiday season, while at work and at home as you are leading others, get into the real spirit of giving and allow yourself to take and receive the gifts of others. Give space to those around you. Take in what they have to offer you. Step aside and let others be wide-eyed and excited as they bring forth their best to give you.
This is the spirit of true giving and leading.
So let me know, are you a taker or a giver?