If I could give one quality gift to you as a leader, I would give you the gift of gratitude. If I could have God do anything for you, I would ask that God make you a grateful person. Gratitude is the fundamental value of the Christian faith. It has the potential to change the world, as much as impact your relationships.
Over my 45+ years of ministry, I have never known a person who was grateful who was at the same time bitter, hurtful, mean, or vengeful. If you are a grateful person, you will lead with gratitude. Who you are is how you lead.
Leading with gratitude means recognizing and developing the potential of the people entrusted to your care. It means you give people your time. You listen to them, discover their gifts, strengths, and passion. You encourage them and give them opportunities to become more who they are created to be.
Leading with gratitude means you become more generous with people. Because you have developed an attitude of generosity, you begin to believe that everyone wants to perform well and will grow more into who they can be with your care and encouragement. This kind of leadership nurtures humility, brings out the best in people, and creates an atmosphere of trust, compassion, stability, and hope.
To be a truly effective leader, you must know how to lead with gratitude.
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. 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.
Develop a Gratitude Practice
The question is “where do you start to develop a practice of gratitude?” Well, I am convinced where you start makes a difference. So, start with the grace of God. The words “grace” and “gratitude” have the same root in Greek. In other words, if there is no awareness of the grace of God, there is no gratitude. And there is no gratitude without an awareness of the grace of God.
Luke 17 and Gratitude
In the Gospel according to Luke, there is a story of grace that illustrates the foundation of gratitude. It is the story of ten Lepers healed of their leprosy. (Luke 17:11-19). Leprosy was a physical condition that had broad implications. It was an incurable disease that separated people from one another. It was a living death. Individuals afflicted with leprosy were required, by the prevailing religion, to stay outside the boundaries of the community.
They were physically, as well as socially, isolated from family, friends, temple, and all that gave meaning and purpose to their lives. Individuals with leprosy had no quality relationships outside of the leper community. Their only means of living was to beg for handouts. Not only were they isolated, but they also had the responsibility of announcing their condition to everyone who came close. In other words, because of their condition, they were marginalized, ostracized, and humiliated.
In the story, as Jesus walks by, it is not clear whether they were begging or if they had confidence in Jesus’ power to cleanse them. But as Jesus passed, they cried out, “Jesus, master, have mercy on us.” Although they did nothing to be afflicted with leprosy, they have no rights to which they can appeal. Healing is not owed to them.
Jesus gave them the direction to “Go show yourselves to the priest.” The priest was one who could announce that each of them was cleansed of leprosy. What is interesting here is Jesus gave each of them what was needed for healing and wholeness. His direction was an act of grace.
They followed his direction. Their action of going to show themselves to the priest was their response. On their way, they were healed of their leprosy. They did not first simply believe and then go to the priest. They followed the direction of Jesus. As they followed his direction, they discovered they had been restored to health. Each of them received the same direction, the same grace, and were given hope of a new life.
Each of the ten lepers did what Jesus told them to do. They all received grace. There was no requirement to return. Yet, in a completely spontaneous expression of gratitude, one returned giving thanks and praising God.
Reconnect What is Broken
In this story, leprosy is a symbol of our condition before God. We are broken people, disconnected from God, one another, and ourselves. As much as you want to and try to, you do not have the capacity within yourself to reconnect what is broken. Your hope is in your experience of God’s grace. You respond to your experience by living as you were created to live. It is your response to God’s grace that equips you to lead with gratitude.
Become aware of God’s Grace
So, how do you lead with gratitude? Become aware of God’s grace in your life.
Each day this week, make time to think about being grateful.
Take note of the people who inspired you.
- What did you see that made you smile or 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.
Ease of Life
Think about what makes your life easier.
- The water in the shower?
- A warm coat?
The list goes on. What are you grateful for 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.
You will come to experience sincere gratitude, even for difficult people, by looking for the good in your encounters with them.
Add to your gratitude list something you are grateful for about yourself.
Although this might feel uncomfortable, take note of what happens when you begin paying attention to what makes you feel good about yourself.
You might even ask yourself why this practice of gratitude makes you feel so uncomfortable. Self-awareness is a gift of grace.
Why not return to give thanks for who you are and for what God has provided to you as a leader?
Gratitude and Grace
Keep in mind that there is no gratitude without an awareness of grace. In the story, ten experienced God’s grace. Ten returned from the world in which they had been isolated. Ten had new lives.
When I was a senior in high school, songwriter and singer, Andre Crouch wrote and recorded a song titled “My Tribute.” The words were as follows:
How can I say thanks for the things You have done for me?
Things so undeserved yet You gave to prove Your love for me.
The voices of a million angels could not express my gratitude.
All that I am and ever hope to be, I owe it all to Thee.
To God be the glory. To God be the glory. To God be the glory.
For the things He has done.
So, how can you say thanks? Be the one who returns living your life in thanksgiving. Become the person you are created to be and lead with gratitude. Who you are is how you lead.