In a recent article, I wrote about the importance of kindness in leadership and how, even in the face of adversity, it helps us stay connected to the people around us and the values we hold.
Another crucial quality that defines effective leadership is the ability to be grateful, to show gratitude for the blessings we receive. As with kindness, gratitude is seen by some as a "woo-woo" concept; however, research over the past 20 years have indicated strong benefits of nurturing the skill of gratitude in terms of improving our ability to connect, and inspire greater employee engagement and motivation.
Gratitude can be defined as, "the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness", which implies the value of demonstrating gratitude through leadership in terms of strengthening bonds. Gratitude shows others that, not only do we care, we also appreciate their contributions, the fact they show up and get the work done every day and enable the milestones, the achievements, and the reputation that their organisation enjoys.
One of my favourite displays of gratitude by a leader comes from Barack Obama. The outgoing President of the United States interrupted the final daily press briefing by his press secretary, Josh Earnest, to deliver a heartfelt speech about how much he admired and valued his spokesman. Regardless of your political leanings, it's difficult to watch the video and not see the effects of Obama's praise and gratitude. At the very least, we see a leader who truly values his people, and they return that gratitude in how they serve his vision.
In leadership, gratitude can often be neglected. For much of the time, we are busy planning and preparing for tomorrow, or looking at past performances and trends to glean valuable lessons. It's easy to forget to pause and be grateful for where we are today. Even in difficult times, the people who stand by us are here today and what they do, day-in day-out, matters today and every day. Leaders who take the time to regularly offer their gratitude send a clear message to their people: what you do matters and I couldn't do what I'm doing without your hard work and commitment. Thank you.
When we talk about investing in people, there's no greater return than when we show people our gratitude for what they do. I've heard some leaders in the past say that people "should be grateful for having a job" - that's totally the wrong attitude for today's era. It's the wrong attitude for any era. Throughout history, the best leaders have always shown that they are the ones who should be grateful for the people who show up and get the job done.
But how does being thankful benefit us as leaders? There are several science-backed reasons to build our gratitude muscles, and here I've outlined five benefits that come with being a leader who serves others with gratitude: