I was 15 years old and still innocent about how life can go sideways at times. My family was invited to dinner at the home of a friend whose wife was quite ill.

She suffered from what the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) describes as a hoarding disorder. Otherwise gentle and kind, she could be absolutely unbendable about moving or discarding anything in the home. So, their home was literally stacked to the ceiling with old cans, plastic wrap, newspapers, and more. You name it, she kept it.

Dianna Booher makes a similar analogy in her book Communicate like a Leader. In it, she briefly addresses the tendency of some leaders to hoard.

She writes: “Somewhere between elementary age and the workplace some people decide to hide their light, their creativity, insights, passion, along with information…that would help another do their job better. Instead, they adopt an ‘every person or department for himself/herself’ attitude.” They hoard.

“Leaders,” Booher says, “hoard information for various reasons.” It may be to punish others, to feel smarter than others, or to control a situation. We may hoard credit, opportunities, or status. Sometimes we hoard because we honestly do not know what others need to know. Other times we don’t share because we think no one cares. In any case, hoarding hurts everyone.

Leaders may need similar checks and balances as those with the mental disorder.

What strategies may be helpful for a leader who hoards? Based on Mayo Clinic ideas, we could say:

  1. Resist the urge to use information as power. Empowering others enhances the entire team.
  2. Let others have a voice. Indeed, give someone information privately that they may share with the group. It increases the group’s value of that person.
  3. Give to others more of who you are as a person rather seeking a reputation as the smart one.

Leaders have relatively few secrets that cannot be shared with others. Practicing generosity, including generosity with information is good modeling and good leadership.

How might you serve others around you by giving away information for the sake of the team today?