Whole Foods CEO John Mackey on ‘Conscious Leadership’

In his insightful new book, Conscious Leadership: Elevating Humanity Through Business, Whole Foods Market CEO John Mackey explores the role of love in business leadership.

Noting that generosity is not a finite resource, he reiterates the virtuous circle it creates:

Generosity is an expression of abundance – that’s the best way to understand this virtue. It’s not an expression of self-sacrifice, which is a common point of confusion. So often, people think that if we give something to someone else, we must also be giving something up – that gain on one side means loss on the other. But true generosity is an overflowing, a movement of the heart that wants to share what we have and help others. It arises not from a feeling of guilt or duty, but from our own awareness of abundance in both ourselves and in the larger universe we are part of. That spirit of abundance naturally wants to give and to share, and to help others. Of course, that can be expressed in many ways. We can be generous with our time, attention, money, knowledge, and even our spirit.

That which we give to others, we give first to ourselves. This is an important spiritual truth that leaders should spend some time reflecting on. The spirit of generosity must first awaken in our own hearts and minds before it can flow outward. Once we consciously recognize that generosity is beneficial not only to the person who is receiving it but also to the one giving, the desire to give will only grow and deepen within us. We will create a virtuous circle of love that nourishes us even as it nourishes others.

Imagine an organization in which the spirit of generosity was a defining attribute of the culture!

What is the best way to practice our generosity?

By keeping company with generous people we can all stretch our “giving muscle” together. Does your office foster a generous culture that allows everyone to bring their best selves to work?

A good way to begin the practice of generosity is by surrounding yourselves with generous people. Their generosity and service will help awaken and inspire our own. Pay attention to those people and the actions they take. Generosity doesn’t have to mean grand gestures – it might just mean helping a friend meet a deadline or staying late to mentor a younger colleague. Inspired by such examples, you can stoke the fires of your own capacity to give with small gifts and acts of service. Over time, you will gradually develop an inner “spiritual muscle” of generosity that will grow stronger as you practice it.