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Gratitude – a key mindset for aspiring leaders

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

A friend recently said: to be a leader you need to have followers. There are many qualities I look for in a role model and one of them is that the leader is someone I would want to be around and from whom can get energy and strength. Values, strategic vision, and discipline are indisputably important qualities but a leader who is also approachable, kind, and positive is far more wonderful to follow.

I’ve had 11 managers in the first 10 years of my career – some have been incredible, and their mentorship and encouragement are carried with me daily. Others – well they’ve taught me how to bravely go and find a better job. One of the most noticeable differences between the two was gratitude expressed and kindness given freely and frequently. Gratitude is a practice I’ve prioritized with the teams that I manage now. I believe it brings out the best in my team and creates an environment where people want to care about their work and do their best.


Over time, I’ve developed several gratitude practices – for my personal life and to use in the workplace. Gratitude is a mindset, and it is a mindset that can be fostered and practiced deliberately. Here are a few things I do to grow my gratitude. If you have other ideas and suggestions – please comment and respond!

  1. Reflect and recognize great effort: before you can praise good work, you need to take the time as a manager to recognize it when you see it. Sometimes it’s obvious in the overtime put together by the team, but often it’s in the details of how smoothly a project went or how honestly and proactively a team handled a problem. I take the time after each key event, campaign, or major project push to note down people’s specific accomplishments. Additionally, each quarter I go over how everything went against the team’s goals and summarize and re-iterate the wins.

  1. Praising my team privately and publicly: Privately to the person doing the work – this is important because I’m dedicating the time and forming a bond. Publicly to my manager peers and my superiors because highlighting the capabilities and qualities of my team also empowers my team as they become better known and their name gets associated with important projects and positive results.

  2. Share the impact, indulge in the details: A thumbs up and a pat on the shoulder is nice but knowing exactly how that hard work translated to results is inspirational. I take the time to contextualize the great job done in terms of the impact it had and to pass on any praise shared with me for the work done by the team to those people who did the work. For example, recently one member of our team did an excellent job organizing everything needed for me to attend the event. She anticipated every detail – and while this is the expectation it is also a hard thing to do. The immediate impact was a completely painless assembly, but the broader impact was the extra time spent with customers and people being attracted to our display.

  3. Recount the blessing before bedtime: Like many people in this world, I go to bed thinking and stressing about my job, the state of the world, and sometimes these things can keep me awake. I’ve found that refocusing my mind on recounting the moments to be grateful for instead is the best remedy. It can really help to counter stress with gratitude precisely: if you’re stressed about a work situation – recall something to be grateful for that can help deal with this situation. Recently, I took on a project that had gone off the rails – I was already putting in tremendous effort and then I was being asked to put aside my long-planned vacation as well. My gratitude meditation at night was focused on remembering how thankful the rest of the team was for my help and how much work they were all also willing to put in to rescue the project. I was honored to have colleagues with that much dedication and discipline. This always worked at diverting my thoughts away from gloom and doom and refocusing on the positive aspects of the situation. After doing this regularly for a couple of years – I firmly believe the benefits have extended into my daily energy and outlook beyond the bedtime routine.


Earlier this year I lead a workshop called “Everyday Strategy” – a key theme was that strategic execution is, by definition, different from day-to-day operational management, and because of this it always requires additional effort from the team. This effort might not necessarily require more hours in the office – but it always requires people to change their habits, learn new processes or techniques, and contribute additional mental and emotional effort to their work to overcome new and ambiguous challenges. Gratitude is an important mindset to advancing strategy because it provides daily inspiration to the team while also centering the team in a positive perspective of the changes they are implementing.

You must pay people well for their effort and commitment, but it is not the paycheck that inspires the extra effort for most people. It is the daily sense of appreciation, recognition, and belonging that invites creative thinking and deep loyalty to a mission. Gratitude is the cornerstone of positive and supportive teams.


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