Some Give and Take

By John DeBoer  |  December 16th

In my digital immigrant reality when it comes to podcasts, I’m like the apostle Paul—there are some good podcasts that I want to listen to, but I simply don’t. A few days ago, however, I was lucky enough to have the vehicle to myself for a few hours and remembered to cue up a podcast from EntreLeadership. Perhaps by divine intervention, I noted the title, “The Humility to Serve”.

In this interview, a highly successful restaurant owner describes two kinds of employees—givers and takers. His point, of course, is that he wants to hire only givers. We know these people. They give to others. They ask, “What else can I do?” They are driven by the organization’s purpose and are remarkable for their positive engagement and humility. They embody what our families are looking for when they seek admission to our schools. They give life to the organization.

We also know the other kind of employee—the taker. The taker can be good at what they do, but they drain energy. They drain energy from colleagues. They take life from the organization with complaining and “glass half-empty” thinking. As you read this, you might already be picturing givers and takers in your organization. To be fair, let’s agree that we are all likely givers and takers in some ways. It’s called being human. Still, we know people who have an approach to life that leans one way or the other.

I offer the document found here as a helpful tool to think and act on the idea of being a faithful presence in the lives of others. The image is a simple way to think about two possible lenses for viewing and living our reality. One lens is life-draining and the other lens is life-giving. The lenses focus on identity. If my identity is found in my accomplishments, that will drain life. If my identity is found in God and His purpose for me, that is life-giving. You get the idea.

As leaders, we can’t lead others if we can’t lead ourselves. So, in terms of your leadership, what is giving you life and what is draining your life? How are you giving life and how are you draining the life of others? Who or what is giving and draining the life of the organization? Are there healthy rhythms for you or the organization that can promote a lens that gives life?

I encourage each of us to consider this tool for helpful reflection. I think it can also be a tool for coaching conversations with staff, to support the givers in your work life, and to challenge the takers.

As we do our good work, let’s encourage and support one another to be life-givers, taking our cue from the One who gives all life. Enjoy!

Want to discuss further? I am always open for a conversation.


John De Boer is the High School Leadership Cohort Mentor and Principal at King’s Christian Collegiate in Oakville, Ontario. He can be reached at