Gratitude is an oft-overlooked aspect of leadership, but it is so important for cultivating the proper spirit and mental attitude to lead.
When you begin your day from a place of gratitude it informs the emotional state of the rest of your day.
Think of it as a host at the party who welcomes you into his / her home and says, “Mi casa su casa.” As opposed to a host who opens the door and says, “Why are you here? What do you want from me?”
It’s not rocket science. If you focus on what you’re grateful for you’re not focusing on what you don’t like. The two areas of focus can’t co-exist so you’re essentially closing the door on negativity and keeping your eye on what you appreciate.
Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., at the University of California at Davis conducted an extensive study on the effects of gratitude and an individual’s overall well being.
He concluded that the expression of gratitude has profound and positive effects on our health, our moods and even the survival of our marriages.
To get started on the gratitude train, Emmons recommends keeping a gratitude journal or making gratitude lists on a daily or weekly basis.
Here are just a few of the benefits of gratitude for a leader:
Gratitude breeds engagement
Your employees and coworkers will feel appreciated and will consequently feel like what they do makes a difference.
Ever work for someone who always has something critical to say about your performance? You eventually feel like you can’t do right and start to question your competence.
Gratitude breeds positive interactions
You may have heard of Dr. John Gottman by now. He is a researcher at the University of Washington that explores the dynamics in marriages and what it takes to make a relationship work.
He came up with the 5:1 rule that states you need five positive interactions to combat the effects of one negative interaction.
If you dip below that level the marriage suffers. I would argue that the same would apply to a leader and his/her colleagues/employees. When you cultivate gratitude you are more likely to keep that 5:1 ratio intact.
Gratitude builds resilience
You can’t be grateful and play the part of the victim simultaneously, unless of course you’re masochistically saying to yourself, “I am grateful that others choose to take advantage of me” but I bet that’s rare.
When you choose gratitude you jettison the “victim mentality;” you overcome the sense of entitlement and deservedness.
If tragedy or crisis were to strike you are more mentally equipped to handle such events because you’re not reacting to them by saying, “this always happens to me.”
Gratitude mitigates schadenfreude
If you wake up and start your day thinking, “I hope that the company fails” – that doesn’t help your own company move forward. If, however, you wake up and think, “I am grateful I have a company.
I am grateful I have the chance to make a living for myself, and others” you do not even think about the success or failure of a competitor. You’re of course going to be aware of your competitors so it’s not a willful ignorance; it’s a willful focus on how to succeed.
Gratitude acknowledges your accomplishments
Once you commence your path to glory it’s crucial you acknowledge the fact that you have started, rather than focus on the fact that you are not where you want to be.
Whether it’s starting a company or taking up pottery, acknowledge the fact that you’ve begun! Most people never even start.
Recognize that being in the game is half the battle. This acknowledgment breeds gratitude for yourself, for your own actions, for the freedom and ability to follow your dream. Gratitude keeps unhealthy comparisons at bay. This makes you feel good.
Gratitude helps you achieve your goals
This was a direct result from Emmons’ study: those who kept gratitude lists had a higher chance of making progress towards personal goals than the subjects in other conditions.
It is thus a professional imperative for leaders to cultivate gratitude to propel your business forward. Your health improves, your interpersonal life improves, and your professional life improves.
This is the magic of positivity: it not only makes you happier, it fertilizes your mind for growth and accomplishment. Positivity makes things possible. Gratitude and positivity are two sides of a coin.
Many of us have a tendency to reach for our phone when we first wake up to check email, social media, and our calendar, myself included.
If we can remember to pause and inject a moment of reflection for gratitude it will have a huge impact in the long run on our happiness and success.
For leaders, it means, not taking his/her employees for granted; appreciating what you’ve already accomplished; being thankful for the opportunity to even have a business, to have employees working for you; being appreciative of your mental faculties, for the opportunities you were given in life; appreciating your clients.
Gratitude also involves effort, not just reflection but action. It’s the whole kit and caboodle.
I’m an organizational psychologist specializing in leadership and organizational development, consulting and coaching. I help leaders and companies expand their insight, impact, and influence. I’m the author of two books, “Y in the Workplace” and “What Keeps Leaders Up At Night.” I have a doctorate in clinical psychology (Psy.D.), Master of Business Administration (MBA), and Master of Criminal Justice (MACJ) – I initially wanted to be in the FBI but I think this was largely fueled by my dream of “working” with Agent Mulder in the X Files. I love coffee, my cats, traveling to new cities, fall weather, boots, meeting people, and coming up with new business ideas, which my GoDaddy account can attest to.