Gratitude has the potential to impact the people around you as well as reshape the world. As a leader, it is essential that gratitude becomes an integral part of your life. It is such an important characteristic that your leadership depends upon it. Effective leadership starts with gratitude. Who you are is how you lead.
Of all the leadership characteristics named, discussed, and implemented, gratitude is the easiest to forget and to dismiss. Too often it is seen as something extra and unnecessary. It is for that very reason, gratitude must be cultivated and practiced. You might think that you will automatically feel gratitude when you have reached a particular position, or accomplished a specific objective, or made the right decision that helps reach a difficult goal. The assumption is that gratitude is a mysterious force that shows up when you succeed or when you feel all’s right with the world.
The reality is gratitude does not appear at the moment things are unfolding perfectly. It is not magically bestowed on some and not on others based upon whether you are successful or not. It is not dependent on what is happening around you. Gratitude is something you cultivate. It is a foundational building block to who you are as a person. It is so foundational that you might think it is too simplistic or basic to be included as a leadership trait. You might also think that expressing gratitude is obvious, but let me say again, gratitude is something you cultivate as you practice it.
Gratitude Brings Perspective
When you have every excuse to focus on what is not going right, gratitude allows you to see things from a new perspective. The more you practice it, the more you adapt to feeling and expressing it. Developing a practice of gratitude allows you to become the leader for this time and place.
As a leader, gratitude impacts the people around you. So, to become more the leader needed for this time, develop a practice of gratitude. Here are four benefits to gratitude.
Four Benefits of Gratitude
Gratitude helps you appreciate where you are and what you are doing.
Think about a time when you felt like you were in an unfamiliar place. Whether geographically or relationally, you felt uncomfortable and unsure of yourself. Maybe you were in a new place surrounded by people you didn’t know. Maybe you were responsible for some unpopular decision. Or maybe you just wanted people to be happy with you and you could not control their perceptions or reactions. Whatever the situation, you just didn’t feel good about being there.
As you reflect upon that time, what are your thoughts and feelings? What makes you uncomfortable or unsure of yourself? What about that experience can help you be a more effective leader?
Now, take a moment to give God thanks for the experience. It might not be easy. You might not want to. But giving thanks will help you put the experience into perspective. It will help you focus more upon the leader you are created to be.
If you are spending your time wishing you were somewhere other than where you are, doing something other than what you are doing, you are creating anxiety for yourself and for the people around you that is unnecessary besides being unhealthy.
You don’t have to like where you are. You don’t have to like what you are doing. But if you are grateful for the places you find yourself and for the opportunities presented to you, you will be able to lead into and through the challenges you face. The truth is, even in the midst of the unfamiliar and unknown, you can always find things for which you are grateful.
O God, put me where you want and help me be content. If I can’t be content, make me faithful. Thank you for being with me wherever I am and with whatever I am doing. Amen
Gratitude helps you love your neighbor.
Think about the people in your life you like being around. What do they do that draws you to them? Do they help you feel good about yourself? Do they offer you affirmation and support?
Now think about a time that you, as a leader, gave someone praise and affirmation? How did it make you feel? How did the person respond to you?
Gratitude is infectious.
It celebrates the goodness of God found in the people you encounter. Gratitude helps to build and repair relationships. It draws people in, encourages them to engage, and models for them the practice of gratitude.
So, let’s go one step farther. Who are the people you try to avoid; the people that drain you of positive energy, who are combative, and disagreeable?
As you think about each person, what are you learning about yourself? What is it that makes you feel good about some people and causes you to avoid others? How does your relationship with each person help you be a more effective leader?
Now, take a moment to give God thanks for each person who has come to mind. It will not be easy. You might feel that you have tried to get some of these people out of your life altogether. But giving thanks will help you put those relationships into perspective. You might even begin to love others as God in Christ has loved you. It is that perspective that will help you become the leader you are created to be.
Whether it is a feel-good experience or an experience you want to avoid, expressing your gratitude helps make you become more aware of the gifts people offer in and through each encounter. The truth is each person contributes to your effectiveness as a leader.
O God, make me aware of the people around me today. As I give you thanks for each person I meet, make me a blessing to someone, somewhere today. Amen.
Gratitude improves your health.
Like the muscles in your body, you can develop an attitude of gratitude. Research has shown that practicing gratitude creates a less critical and more compassionate relationship with others and a less punishing and more affirming relationship with yourself. When you practice gratitude, you become more emotionally healthy and are less likely to experience depression and anxiety.
Dr. Robert A. Emmons, from the University of California in Davis, studied the impact of gratitude on physical health, psychological well-being, and relationships with others. What he found was that gratitude helps develop stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, and improve sleep patterns.
He found that persons who practice gratitude are more alert and have a healthy self-awareness. They experience deeper joy, greater happiness, and are more hopeful than those who do not practice gratitude. He also found that gratitude helped people be more generous and compassionate and as well as more forgiving. The people who practiced gratitude were less lonely and isolated. The truth is gratitude is a healthy practice of an effective leader.
O God, I am grateful for the ways you are shaping my life in and through the people around me. Give me eyes to see how you come through each of them to help me become who you created me to be. Amen
Gratitude makes you less fearful and more courageous.
As a human being, you simply cannot listen to the voices of gratitude and fear at the same time. Your attention is either on one or the other.
The times I struggle with gratitude the most are when I do not see my place in the bigger picture. When I am in the muddy and murky waters of fear, disappointment, and scarcity, I usually don’t see the opportunities and possibilities around me. But one the other hand, when I focus on gratitude, I am more optimistic, cooperative, and energized.
Think about a particular challenge you are facing. Get the situation and/or the person clearly in your mind. Focus on the challenge.
Now, with the situation or person in mind, name five things about the situation or the person for which you are grateful. Place these five things in your heart and mind. Now, what has happened to your fear?
You simply cannot listen to the voices of gratitude and fear at the same time. Your attention will either be on one or the other. As a healthy human being and more specifically as an effective leader, it is your choice to make.
Most of the effective leaders I know, practice gratitude on a regular basis. When you consciously practice gratitude, in all situations and circumstances, you become a better leader, you model for the people around you, and you are a happier person.
O God, your perfect love casts out my fears. I give thanks for the situations and circumstances in which I am leading, and for the people through whom you reveal your love. Help me be so aware of your presence that all I say and do will bring you glory and work for the good of the people you have given me to love and serve. Amen.
Effective Leadership Starts with Gratitude
Who you are is how you lead. How can you become a more effective leader? Become a person of gratitude. It is time to take the next step.
Your Next Steps
Over the next 5 days, make time each day to think about being grateful.
Take note of the people who inspired you. What did you see that made you smile or to take notice of their actions?
Keep in mind that no person or experience is insignificant. From the person who started a friendly conversation to the laughter of children, they are all part of what makes you who you are. The small joys are just as valuable as all the others.
Think about what makes your life easier? The alarm that reminds you to get up each morning? The water in the shower? Car? Umbrella? Cellphone? The list goes on. For what are you grateful at this moment?
Consider past relationships. Upon whose shoulders are you standing? What did the person do to make life better for you? Why are you better off for having known that person?
Give thanks for the toughest relationship of the day. On my best days, I have come to experience sincere gratitude, even for difficult people, by looking for the good in my encounter with them.
Add to your gratitude list something you are grateful for about yourself. This might feel uncomfortable. Most of the time you quickly focus upon things you do not like about yourself. When you practice gratitude, you can alter that negative cycle. What would happen if you, instead of focusing upon your flaws, would pay attention to what makes you most proud of yourself?
Remember, who you are is how you lead. Effective leadership starts with gratitude.
O God, I give you thanks for my friends and colleagues who, through their gratitude, are helping me become more who you created me to be. I am grateful. Amen.