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Attitude of gratitude

Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude for Stronger Leadership

The attitude of gratitude is contagious and can inspire others to do the same

As a leader, I have always been interested in positive psychology. Through my experience, I have found that positivity and an attitude of gratitude are powerful pillars for effective leadership. By focusing on the strengths and successes of my team, and expressing gratitude for their contributions, I have been able to create a work environment that is not only productive, but also fulfilling and rewarding. 

What is Gratitude?

Gratitude is the quality of being thankful and appreciative for the good things in life. It involves recognizing and acknowledging the positive aspects of one’s life, such as personal accomplishments, supportive relationships, and meaningful experiences.

The Impact of Gratitude on the Brain, Behavior, and Relationships

Research has shown that cultivating an attitude of gratitude has a significant impact on the brain, behavior, and relationships. Here are some examples:

  • Brain: Gratitude has been found to activate the brain’s reward center, leading to an increase in positive emotions and a decrease in negative emotions. It has also been associated with increased neural activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for executive functioning and decision-making.
  • Behavior: Grateful individuals tend to exhibit more prosocial behavior, such as helping others, donating to charity, and volunteering their time. They are also less likely to engage in negative behaviors, such as aggression and substance abuse.
  • Relationships: Expressing gratitude in relationships leads to increased feelings of closeness and connection between individuals. It will also improve relationship satisfaction and reduce conflict. If you would like to read more, consider reading:  Building And Maintaining Strong Work Relationships

Gratitude and Leadership

Research has also found that cultivating an attitude of gratitude has a positive impact on leadership effectiveness. Here are some examples:

  • Personalizing gratitude: A manager who takes the time to personalize their expressions of gratitude can create a more meaningful impact on their team members. For example, instead of sending a generic “thank you” email, a manager might write a handwritten note to a team member thanking them for their specific contribution to a project. This personal touch demonstrates that the manager values and appreciates each team member’s unique contributions, which will foster a sense of belonging and motivation.
  • Celebrating team successes: A leader who celebrates team successes creates a more positive and supportive team environment. For instance, organizing a team lunch or outing to celebrate the completion of a major project. This celebration not only recognizes the team’s hard work, but also helps to build camaraderie and improve team cohesion. Additionally, this can create a sense of pride in the team, which will lead to increased motivation and engagement.
  • Embedding gratitude in organizational culture: A leader who models gratitude and encourages its practice throughout the organization creates a culture of appreciation and positivity. For example, you might regularly express gratitude to employees during company-wide meetings or implement a recognition program that rewards employees for their hard work. This type of culture improves employee satisfaction and retention, as employees are more likely to feel valued and motivated to contribute to the organization’s success.
Attitude of gratitude

Examples of Leaders who have Successfully Cultivated an Attitude of Gratitude

  • Oprah Winfrey: Oprah Winfrey, media mogul and philanthropist, is known for her gratitude practice. She keeps a gratitude journal and regularly expresses appreciation to her team members, which has been credited with creating a positive and supportive work environment.
  • Tony Hsieh: Tony Hsieh, former CEO of Zappos, was a proponent of gratitude in the workplace. He implemented a “happiness framework” that included regular expressions of gratitude and appreciation for employees. This approach was credited with improving employee engagement and customer satisfaction. His book Delivering Happiness, published in 2010, focused on Hsieh’s business ideas.
  • Indra Nooyi: Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, was known for her practice of writing thank-you notes to employees, customers, and partners. She believed that expressing gratitude was essential to building strong relationships and creating a positive work environment.

How to Develop Gratitude as a Leader

Developing an attitude of gratitude as a leader is a powerful way to engage and motivate employees, and Judith Umlas, author of “Grateful Leadership: Using the Power of Acknowledgment to Engage All Your People and Achieve Superior Results,” outlines five key principles, known as the 5 C’s, that will guide leaders in this process.

1. Consciousness

Developing a mindset of gratitude starts with being aware of the positive contributions of others. Leaders need to cultivate a practice of mindfulness and reflection to be more conscious of the efforts made by their team. This can be done by acknowledging the small wins and celebrating the accomplishments, creating a culture of gratitude.

2. Choice

Acknowledging the contributions of others is a choice that leaders make. They need to choose to focus on the positive aspects of their team and actively look for opportunities to express appreciation. By making a conscious effort to show gratitude, leaders help create a positive work environment where people feel valued and appreciated.

3. Courage

Expressing gratitude is challenging in some cultures, where it may not be the norm. Leaders need to have the courage to go against the norm and express appreciation for the contributions of their team. By doing so, they can help create a culture of gratitude where people feel valued and appreciated for their work.

4. Communication

Clear and open communication is essential to practicing grateful leadership. Leaders need to communicate their appreciation and acknowledge the work of others regularly. They need to be specific in their praise, highlighting the contributions that team members have made. This way, they build trust, inspire their team, and create a positive work environment. If you would like to read more about effective communication for leaders, you could read the blog: Effective communication for leaders: secrets you should know

5. Commitment

To truly develop gratitude as a leader, it is important to make a commitment to continue practicing grateful leadership. This includes creating a culture where acknowledgment and appreciation are valued, and making gratitude a habit. Leaders need to actively look for opportunities to show gratitude and encourage their team to do the same. By doing this, they can foster an atmosphere at work where employees feel appreciated, motivated, and engaged. 


Applying the Attitude of Gratitude in Leadership

Now that we’ve discussed how to develop gratitude as a leader, let’s explore specific strategies for practicing gratitude in the workplace.

Expressing Appreciation

  • Provide positive feedback: Acknowledge and appreciate the contributions of team members by providing positive feedback on their work.
  • Express gratitude for hard work: Thank team members for their hard work and effort, especially during challenging times.
  • Celebrate success: Recognize and celebrate team achievements and milestones, showing appreciation for everyone’s hard work and dedication.

Focusing on the Positives

  • Practice positivity: Encourage a positive work environment by focusing on what’s going well rather than dwelling on the negatives. 
  • Shift perspective: When faced with a challenge, try to reframe it in a positive light by focusing on the potential opportunities or lessons learned.
  • Lead by example: As a leader, modeling a positive and grateful attitude encourages team members to adopt the same mindset.

My blog Leading from Love Over Fear: The Heart of Positive Leadership focuses on the power of positivity. 

Integrating Gratitude into Team Building and Organizational Culture

  • Gratitude activities: Incorporate gratitude activities into team-building exercises, such as a gratitude scavenger hunt or a gratitude wall where team members can post notes of appreciation for each other.
  • Gratitude in meetings: Incorporate gratitude exercises into team meetings, such as starting each meeting with a gratitude check-in or ending each meeting with a round of appreciation for team members.
  • Gratitude initiatives:  Create an initiative to promote gratitude within the business, such as a team-wide gratitude challenge or a bulletin board for team members to express their gratitude to one another.
Attitude of gratitude

Summary: An attitude of gratitude

In conclusion, to summarize the key takeaways from this blog post on grateful leadership, we will use the seven principles outlined in Judith Ulmas’ book:

1. Acknowledgment is deserved by many, but received by few

This principle highlights the fact that people often go unrecognized for their hard work and accomplishments. As a leader, it is important to acknowledge the contributions of your team members regularly. For example, you could give a shoutout during a team meeting or send a personalized message to express your appreciation.

2. Acknowledgment builds trust and creates powerful interactions

When leaders acknowledge their team members, it helps to build trust and positive relationships. One way to apply this principle is to provide regular feedback and recognition for good work. It is also important to actively listen to your team members and respond with empathy and understanding.

3. Acknowledgment can help diffuse jealousy and envy

When team members feel unrecognized or undervalued, it might create tension and jealousy. Acknowledgment helps to diffuse these negative emotions by recognizing the accomplishments of all team members, not just the high performers. This can be accomplished by promoting a culture of gratitude in which everyone is encouraged to show gratitude to their coworkers.

4. Acknowledgment energizes people—lack of acknowledgment diminishes them

Acknowledgment is a powerful motivator that will energize team members and boost their confidence. On the other hand, lack of acknowledgment is demotivating and lead to low morale. As a leader, it is important to acknowledge and celebrate small wins as well as big achievements.

5. Acknowledgment can make a profound difference in a person’s life and work

When leaders take the time to acknowledge their team members, it will have a profound impact on their lives and work. One way to apply this principle is to create opportunities for team members to share their successes and achievements with the rest of the team. This can be done through regular team meetings or informal check-ins.

6. Acknowledgment improves physical and emotional well-being

Acknowledgment not only benefits the recipient but also the giver. When leaders acknowledge their team members, it improves their own well-being by reducing stress and increasing positive emotions. Leaders apply this principle by taking time to reflect on their own accomplishments and expressing gratitude for the people in their lives.

7. Acknowledgment needs to be practiced in different ways

Finally, it is important to acknowledge team members in a variety of ways to keep it fresh and meaningful. Some ideas for acknowledging team members include sending a personalized note or email, giving a public shoutout during a team meeting, or creating an awards program to celebrate achievements. The key is to find what works best for your team and to be consistent in your efforts to acknowledge and appreciate your team members.

Recommended book about gratitude and leadership

For this article I was inspired by:

“Grateful Leadership: Using the Power of Acknowledgment to Engage All Your People and Achieve Superior Results” by Judith W. Umlas. This book explores how incorporating gratitude and acknowledgment can enhance leadership skills and drive superior results in organizations.

The book provides practical strategies for leaders to develop a grateful mindset, express gratitude to others, and integrate grateful leadership into organizational culture.

Umlas draws on research and case studies to demonstrate the positive impact of grateful leadership on employee motivation, engagement, and productivity.

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