Leading with Gratitude

Every November, Americans pause to “count their blessings” with family and friends, in between bites of turkey and dressing. But recent research suggests that gratitude as a conscious lifestyle is a healthy decision. And in your leadership, you’ll find thankfulness to be of benefit in your key relationships and important decision making.

"And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:17 ESV

A 2012 research study involved 300 adults who sought mental health counseling. A portion of those in the study were asked to write a note of gratitude to someone once a week. A short thank you to another person. This segment of the study group, who focused on positive reinforcement and thankfulness to those around them, exhibited significantly improved mental health when measured 12 weeks after the study.[1]According to researchers at Harvard Medical School, “Taking the time to be thankful and appreciative for things you have received, tangible or intangible, makes you feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improves your health, helps you deal with adversity and builds strong relationships—all crucial traits both in and out of the workplace.”[2]

In your leadership, thankfulness can help you correct dysfunction, including blaming, yelling and unresolved conflict, within your team. When you remind others to be thankful and put their negative circumstances in context with corresponding positive opportunities, it will help them to improve their behavior, and reduce workplace stress and frustration.

And just as the study group found a positive emotional response in writing thank you notes, leading a team to develop a culture of gratitude in the workplace will also result in a more positive environment, which can affect everything from problem-solving, collaboration, risk-taking, innovation and bottom-line business decisions. 

In the realm of leadership and life, is gratitude just an emotion, a feeling? Is it simply an attitude, or maybe a psychological construct? None of the above. Gratitude is an action. Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast suggests gratitude comes from recognition that something is valuable and that it has been freely given to you.[3] The quality of being thankful leads to tangible acts of appreciation and kindness toward others, and toward God, and a certain satisfaction with what we have right now, in front of us. Steindl-Rast says, “Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy—because we will always want to have something else or something more.”

What are you thankful for today? Your family, work, relationships, health, opportunities, resources? Are you grateful for where you are in life right now? Does that sense of gratitude affect your actions and decisions? Turkey and dressing are consumed in recognition of thanksgiving. But real thanksgiving results in positive action toward others. Let your life be one that shows gratitude by word and deed, every day, to everyone in your sphere of influence. 

[1] https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you

[2] https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier

[3] https://gratefulness.org/resource/what-is-gratitude/