I hope you all had a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving. I feel it only appropriate to explore “gratitude” as a predominant characteristic of effective leaders.
In the book “The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership” (highly recommended reading) the authors refer to gratitude and appreciation as above the line qualities and behaviors. The concept is simple as “above the line” behaviors are conscious and effective, whereas below the line are not.
Effective leaders understand that there are countless opportunities every day to choose a perspective of gratitude over entitlement. Gratitude has many psychological benefits and studies have shown that there are also several physiological advantages to practicing gratitude as well.
In a 2013 study by the University of Kentucky, they found that grateful people are more likely to behave in a pro-social manner, even when others behave less kindly. In that study, participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback.
Additional studies have shown that gratitude improves self-esteem, sleep, and mental strength.
Of course, it is easy to be grateful when things are going “our way” and a little more challenging when the world does not seem to be accommodating our wants and needs.
Great leaders recognize that the key to sound leadership is to choose gratitude during those times when things seem to have fallen off the rails.
Cultivating the practice of gratitude can be approached as a discipline much like the discipline of exercising. I, for example, start each day writing three things I am grateful for. This allows me to develop the gratitude “muscle” so that it becomes more natural to practice gratitude in the face of challenging situations.
As an added benefit, gratitude helps us look for the opportunity in any situation. There is always something to be learned if I am open to seeing things from that viewpoint. Often the greatest learning can be attained through situations that offer the greatest challenges.
Remember gratitude is a choice and you can make that choice each and every time you are faced with experiences that might cause you to drop “below the line” in thought and behavior.
Before you react in a manner less than appropriate, try stopping and identifying at least one thing in the experience that you can honestly be grateful for.
Remember it’s a practice and therefore will take time to become a natural tool. Allow yourself to stumble along the way. In time and with practice you will find yourself looking for something to be grateful for in the most trying of situations.
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