Leading with Gratitude, pt.1

Having spent the last two weeks interviewing recent graduates of the Leadership Institute, I was struck by a common factor in all three of the graduates I interviewed: a deep sense of gratitude for having had the opportunity to participate, and for the impact the program made in their lives.

As a recent graduate of the Leadership Institute myself, I appreciate the feeling of knowing that you’ve been made better because of an experience like the Leadership Institute. But, I also feel that there might be more to it than appreciation for a great program. It seems to me that gratitude is an intrinsic part of leadership.

What if we perceived gratitude as a skill with the same cause and effect perspective as, say, good communication or conflict resolution skills? What if leading with gratitude has a direct effect on operations, strategy, and innovation?

As leaders, our success is directly tied to the efforts of those we lead.

If, on a regular basis, we were to consciously recognize that our success is really the result of the actions, behaviors, thoughts, and attitudes of our team, how could that not have an impact on our decisions?

Richard Branson said, “The way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers.” Knowing the truth in this, there is value in the regular consideration of questions such as..

  1. How are you treating your team?
  2. Are you grateful for the work they do?
  3. Do you serve them well by recognizing their efforts and showing you’re grateful?

In a study conducted by Peter Barron Stark Companies reviewing practices of some of the most successful leaders, a common response of their employees was, “I feel appreciated for my contributions to the organization.” And, “I feel adequately recognized when I do a great job.” Another study by Bersin & Associates reported that companies excelling at employee recognition are 12 times more likely to enjoy strong business results.

Of course, this data makes sense. From time to time, I’ve heard people say things like, “All the recognition I need is knowing in my own mind that I’ve done a good job.” I can appreciate the sentiment behind those words. I just don’t believe that, in most cases, they are actually true. In fact, it could be that those who say such things actually need the recognition more than anyone. They’ve simply learned to say they don’t need recognition to compensate for a lack of positive feedback.

Because, when it comes down to it, we all have a deeply rooted need to feel valued and appreciated.

Knowing this, shouldn’t regular demonstrations of gratitude be a core aspect of the way we lead? Unfortunately, this is sometime easier said than done. Several things can get in the way – often perspectives and ways of thinking that need to be challenged:

  • An underlying belief that if someone is paid well and fortunate enough to have a job, that is appreciation enough.
  • A fear that if we provide too much positive feedback, team members may not be motivated towards continuous improvement.
  • Passing the resentment about not feeling appreciated by one’s own superiors onto the rest of the team. “I never receive recognition, why should anyone else?”
  • Low confidence or self-esteem. As leaders, if we don’t believe in the worth of our own contributions, it will be very difficult to provide positive feedback for others.

One of the best things about leading with gratitude is that it’s an attitude shift firmly within our control that’s likely to reap immediate benefits for everyone on our team – if we approach it with heartfelt thought and action. How many times do you think about how much you appreciate someone, but neglect to take action on the thought? Fairly often? Yeah… me too.

If you, like me, want to lead from a deeper sense of gratitude, here are 7 actions we can take to demonstrate that we are truly are grateful for the contributions of our team.

About Dan Finerty

Dan Finerty is the Director of Marketing at the Mountain West Credit Union Association, a Credit Union champion, a Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE), and an award-winning marketer. Dan has over 14 years of marketing experience in communications, retail, packaged goods, and, of course, Credit Unions. He believes that Credit Unions have an incredible story to tell and works with some of the brightest Credit Union professionals to help promote Credit Unions to the public. Dan holds two Bachelor’s of Science in Marketing and in Management. He is also a swell guy.


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