The Great-ful Leader

 grateful leader

Thanksgiving. An annual holiday in the United States, honoring the harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621; and a time when most of us consider all the things for which we are thankful.

As this holiday season approaches, it therefore feels fitting to write about gratitude. We hear and see this word a lot these days — or so it seems. Search the word “gratitude” in Google, and you will yield 22,000,000 results. That might feel like a large number. Yet the truth of the matter is: usage of words like “thankfulness”, “appreciation” and “gratitude” have fallen by 49% over the last ½ century, based on a study conducted by Pelin and Selin Kesebir ( It appears that we have become a “Me-oriented” society. In this we’ve created a gratitude deficit disorder. Over the past half-century, we’ve become more individualistic — and in that — less morally aware.

Thanksgiving and giving thanks go hand in hand. We’re getting ready to celebrate a holiday that honors appreciation for what we have. But if it’s true that gratitude is declining – or that we only think about it once a year on this day when we give thanks – we are overlooking the immeasurable power of practicing gratitude daily — especially in the context of business.

There are bottom-line implications of embracing gratitude in the workplace. Bersin and Associates ( conducted a study on employee recognition with these results:

  • Organizations with mature recognition programs are 12 times more likely to have strong business results

  • Only 20% of organizations are realizing this level of value

  • Senior-level support is critical to high performing programs

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When it comes to business, we fall into the trap of not seeing people. People become a means to an end. Eighty percent of us tend to take our colleagues for granted, assuming there is no need to express gratitude. And this oversight has huge consequences, particularly if you’re the boss.


According to David Horsager, author of The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships and a Stronger Bottom Line: “In business we’re drawn to people who acknowledge our contributions. When those people hold leadership positions, you can see the trickle-down effect on the company as a whole—all the way down to customers. When managers and employees know that company leaders value gratitude, those who serve customers on the front line show appreciation more readily. And we know that the customer who feels appreciated won’t hesitate to return.”

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What is our most basic human need? In other words…at the end of the day, why does anyone do anything? It is my view that we do the things we do for one simple reason: TO BE ACKNOWLEDGED.

We are hungry for genuine appreciation – not the automatic “Thank you” or “Hey, great job” – but the honest, respectful acknowledgement of another human being — one that honors the person; not the result. We want to know that we matter — that our efforts are contributing towards making the world a better place. And there is tremendous power in gratitude. A state of appreciation is one of the highest vibrational emotional states possible – not just for the receiver but for the giver as well.

It’s true that leaders need to encourage and motivate; but leaders cannot authentically inspire if they don’t “see” their employees and the contributions those people make to the company.

When expressed authentically and regularly, gratitude not only helps your organizational culture to flourish and prosper; in turn, it increases productivity, ultimately achieving the bottom line while fostering a value-driven workforce; building more meaningful relationships; and creating more positive connections between you and the people you lead.

Great leaders are grateful. They have not forgotten the human side. They realize the power of establishing a culture of gratitude and it doesn’t stop with the organization. Like a ripple out effect, that appreciative attitude expands to all stakeholders, the community and the world.

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