Think Leadership Ideas

Gratitude Leadership

Conventional thinking defines leadership as the role of being in charge.

More nuanced thinking considers leadership as a particular kind of activity i.e. actions that move an endeavor forward. But here’s the essential paradox...what defines an encounter as an act of leadership is not a specific action of the leader, but rather that someone follows.

It’s willing followers who manifest acts of leadership. No follower, no leader. No followers, no leadership.

No individual, no leader, does it alone. Great accomplishments, great organizations, and great endeavors exist due to the efforts of multiple people. Often lots of people. Savvy leaders not only feel gratitude, but communicate it effectively.

So if you are a leader “feeling the love” for those who follow you; if are you genuinely thankful for those who have helped make the endeavors that are important to you successful, here are three tips for making those expressions of gratitude count even more...

Link Contributions to Success
Great leaders don’t simply say “good job” or “thanks” - they communicate how an individual’s effort contributes to the overall success of an organization. Don’t assume it’s obvious. Articulate how a particular person’s effort, their performance, or the qualities they exhibit advance the mission, vision, and larger goals of the endeavor. Don’t just tell ‘em “good job” - tell ‘em why and how it’s a good job.

Make it Personal
To make expressions linking contributions to success and words of thanks meaningful, it must be personal. A note which references something specific to that person, a real signature if the note isn’t handwritten, using a person’s name when you speak with them - making it personal makes gratitude real.

Continuously, Not Occasionally
Are your appreciative expressions limited to annual reviews, holidays, special occasions, or end-of-year bonus time? If so, you’re missing opportunities bring out the best efforts of people to advance and enhance your endeavor’s success. How much recognition is enough? Probably more than you think. The Gallup Organization found that productivity, profitability, employee retention, and customer satisfaction were correlated to fully agreeing with the following question (my emphasis) “in the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?” Don’t make gratitude a one-shot deal, rather seek to cultivate appreciative recognition into your company culture.

Bonus tip - authenticity trumps everything else. Keep it real.

by Tom Stevens (c)2013
Tom Stevens helps leaders create and sustain exceptional organizations. To contact him, visit or call 919-245-1026

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Happy Thanksgiving

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