Leadership and Gratitude

By McKenzie Schwark
Features Writer

In the season of autumn and Thanksgiving, many people begin to reflect on gratitude and the blessings in their lives. It is so important to show honest appreciation and gratitude toward others all year round, but autumn is a great time to make it a priority and practice. The definition of gratitude is, “The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” It is well understood that showing appreciation and kindness to others will help us lead happier and more fulfilled lives and cultivate deeper relationships with people around us.

But why is showing gratitude so important for leadership?

According to Forbes, “Brenѐ Brown found that the quickest way to become more vulnerable is to have a strong gratitude muscle, making this trait foundational for effective leadership.” Vulnerability humanizes us as people and makes others feel more comfortable to accept and reciprocate the practice of gratitude and appreciation. When we make ourselves appear more human as leaders, we create a culture of trust and psychological safety. Instead of people looking at each other through a hierarchy of positions and titles, we look at them for who they are as a person and how they have interacted and supported one another. Bringing the consistency and practice of gratitude creates an empathetic culture where people are engaged, motivated, and take risks because they know they are supported by their leaders.

Ways to show gratitude

In Dale Carnegie’s Golden Book, principle number nine is: “Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.” When practicing gratitude as a leader, act with intention and sincerity. This approach in turn helps the receiver of gratitude feel connected and valued. Acts of gratitude can be simple, yield strong results and are contagious when done consistently. Here are some ways to practice gratitude with others:

  • Write someone a handwritten thank-you note
  • When you address or thank someone, use their name. I.e., “Good morning, Sue” or “Thank you, Dennis”
  • Show genuine curiosity for others and learn about the things they like
  • Bring in coffee, lunch, or a treat as a thank you for your team or colleague
  • Spend time as a team or individually volunteering for a cause in the community

Recently, I had the opportunity to practice gratitude myself! It was the end of summer and my spirited son, Teddy, was heading to kindergarten. I wrote both of his preschool teachers a thank-you note and gave them a bag of cute soup mix I found at the store. It was simple, it did cost much, and it didn’t take that much time, but the reaction was priceless. Upon delivery, I noticed that the head teacher looked confused. She thanked me, and I asked, “Is everything okay?” She said, “Yes, it’s just that we don’t get gifts very often – I was surprised!” It warmed my heart to show appreciation for such hard-working, selfless, and patient people who interacted with my son every day – I wish I could have given more! This simple act of kindness showed this teacher that she was valued and set a tone that even among the chaos of life we can stop and say, “Thank you.”

Showing gratitude toward others takes time and commitment. For many of us, it is hard to look past negative interactions or make time to go the extra step of appreciation. Gratitude can seem challenging when our mindsets aren’t always in a positive place. However, practicing gratitude increases positivity and happiness among the givers and is a great fallback when we find ourselves in a negative environment or situation. Remember, gratitude does not need to come from just organizational leaders, and it does not have to be complicated. Gratitude can come from anywhere and molds anyone into a leader through sincere practice. Let’s all do our part this autumn to show appreciation at home, at work, and in our community.