Leadership and Gratitude:
How to Set an Example of Gratitude for Your Organization
November 25, 2020
At this point in society’s development, there’s an entire section of the bookstore and even college degrees specifically for leadership. There’s a mountain of information and dozens of “leadership theories,” out there. There are even more “experts” in the space who have their own tricks. Think 5 rules, 7 habits, 8 principles, and one or more extremely kitchy book titles. This is especially true of “company leadership.”
If you were a young eager learner, beginning your leadership journey, and you needed to start with one idea—one concept that’s fundamental to leadership, I would propose that the only logical starting point is “leading by example.”
Company Leadership: by Example
Leading by example, or LBE, is the fundamental principle that the “servant leadership theory” is built around. Servant leadership is often spoken about and framed in terms of two very famous people in history:
- Jesus, whose stories of generosity and selflessness embody a true servant leader
- Gandhi, who sacrificed his well-being for a cause he believed in, inspiring millions in the process
However, servant leadership is not only practiced by those who fill our history books. It’s also the exact reason that everyone at your local cafe loves working there. Liz, the manager, does every single undesirable job that she asks the rest of her staff to do. Also, she takes time to thank the others when they take their turn with the plunger in the bathroom. She listens to her team, respects her employees, and delivers on promised results. She always resolves conflicts quickly and fairly and does what she expects of everyone else—all with a smile.
According to an article published by the Society for Human Resource Management, servant leaders “possess a serve-first mindset, and they are focused on empowering and uplifting those who work for them”. This idea is deeply tied to “leading by example” as the entire model is based around common moral principles we teach our children:
Do to others as you want to be done unto you.
Or, more pertinent to the working world—don’t ask or expect from others what you wouldn’t do yourself.
Lead by Gratitude
One of the greatest and most impactful ways to lead by example is to share gratitude with your team in abundance. Gratitude for them, gratitude for the work they do, and gratitude for the company you love. A company that they contribute to growing each and every day.
As Dr. Nicole Lipkin say’s in her Medium article on gratitude, “It’s not rocket science. If you focus on what you’re grateful for you’re not focusing on what you don’t like. The two areas of focus can’t coexist so you’re essentially closing the door on negativity and keeping your eye on what you appreciate.”
In all places of work across all industries, there are inevitably going to be things you don’t love. It can be the paperwork, a disgruntled client, a particular tool, a certain meeting, ad infinitum.
If you fixate on these elements of your role or the industry, it will certainly be harder to get through your day with a smile on your face. It will be even harder to have the proper energy to give your dog, family, and loved ones upon returning home (or “to home life” if you’re working from home).
If you intentionally decide to place focus instead on the things you do love about your role and the companies work—the team, the mission at hand, the direction you’re guiding your organization, the new client you helped secure—it’s a lot easier to be just as good of a parent, partner, or dog-owner. Intentionally practicing gratitude will lead you to be a positive and productive contributor around the company leadership table during the day, and then around the dinner table at home later that evening.
So how do you build a practice of gratitude into your weekly work-flow? What is the most effective way to virtually shout-out your gratitude from the remote mountain you’re working on?
A Brand New Gratitude Tool
There are myriad ways to show gratitude, from a smile, to a letter, to an award, to a raise. But the question is how to build these moments and opportunities for gratitude into the weekly workflow?
If a moment of gratitude hits you spontaneously—act on it, spread the love, send a quick note of thanks. But what if it doesn’t? What if you’re in the middle of a brutal month and it’s hard to feel that spark of joy? What if you can’t find that moment where you step back and appreciate what you’re building towards? AND the folks who are helping make the dream a reality? You need a failsafe for these types of weeks and months.
That’s exactly why you need to put tools and processes in place—just like you would for a supply chain. In this case, the supply that needs to get delivered is gratitude to your team. The tool that can help make achieving this so much more possible and simple is a new video based asynchronous platform called Voodle. It’s fun to say, and even more fun to use—Voodle.
Voodle allows a team to share 60 second videos with each other, and to keep them organized in specific channels. Imagine a thread of “Friday gratitude” where as company leadership you drop a short video every Friday morning. You share something you’re grateful for, and encourage others to do the same in response.
That afternoon you check back and find 40+ other employees have shared short videos of thanks, appreciation, and love to others across the organization. That virtual drop of love in the digital ocean of your organization keeps spreading outward forever, and your entire team will head into their weekend spilling-over with thanks. The drops add up, and as a leader, you have the power to turn that faucet on.
Keep It All in Perspective
Sending a weekly gratitude Voodle to your team about a specific employee who impressed you, or highlighting a project that you’re excited about—all of these types of actions will be followed and replicated by your team. That is precisely how gratitude becomes part of the bedrock of an organization. It’s how sharing thanks becomes more commonplace than sharing complaints.
According to an article in Entrepreneur by John Rampton, “Gratitude, while allowing you to embrace your accomplishments, also keeps your ego in check. That’s because appreciation will enable you to realize that without assistance from others, you wouldn’t be as successful.”
As a leader, initiating this type of simple weekly ritual will not only spread through your organization like a drop ripples through the ocean, it will help you to keep things in perspective. You are undoubtedly busy, and sometimes that sense of never-ending work can inevitably lead one down a negative tailspin. However, choosing gratitude in a position of company leadership can make all the difference.
Building in these weekly practices of gratitude is like a pause button amongst the chaos and commotion. You’ll step back, think of all the good things that are happening and the amazing people who make them happen, and—in that moment—your mountain of work looks just right. You can get a clear view of the easiest path to the top. Most importantly, you’ll be happy you have good people to make the long hike with.
Once you get to the top of that mountain, the view will have been worth the climb. Practicing gratitude consistently and intentionally along the way will only make the hike up that much better for yourself as a leader, and everyone following behind you. Let Voodle be your walking sticks, the perfect tool to make the journey more simple, enjoyable, and full of gratitude.
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