top of page
  • Kathleen Phelps

Leading with Gratitude (or How To Be a Better Leader and a Happier Person)

Gratitude rock
Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” —William Arthur Ward

One of the most important things a leader can do is express gratitude to the people around them, including direct reports, colleagues, board members, customers, and vendors. As the holidays approach, don’t miss the opportunity to recognize the many people who contribute to your individual success and the success of your organization.

Why Cultivate Gratitude Practices as a Leader?

  1. Increased Engagement and Retention — Though the conventional wisdom that ‘employees don’t leave their jobs, they leave their manager’ has merit, the top reason employees leave their employers is that they don’t feel appreciated. In How Full is Your Bucket? Positive Strategies for Work and Life, the authors report that “65% of people surveyed said they got no recognition for good work.”

  2. Better Business Outcomes — Do the people in your organization feel valued? According to a McKinsey study, praise and commendation from managers was rated as the top motivator for performance for a majority of employees, more so than financial incentives. Organizations with the most sophisticated recognition practices are 12 times more likely to have strong business outcomes. 

  3. It’s The Best Gift You Can Give to Yourself — Experiencing a sense of gratitude makes us feel good and worry less. It improves our health, and gives us more energy. In addition, a multitude of recent studies show how actively cultivating practices that lead to feelings of gratitude “strengthens our brain’s happiness circuitry” by increasing levels of dopamine and engaging our brain in a virtuous cycle that reshapes neural pathways.

Whether it is saying thanks for a job well done, sending a quick note or email to acknowledge a colleague’s contribution, or writing in your own gratitude journal, expressing authentic appreciation is an important leadership practice, with significant ripple effects.

Thankfully(!), it is also the easiest, most effective, and most low tech thing you can do to create a culture where people feel valued and engaged — and you do too.

My Expression of Gratitude

As 2015 comes to a close, I am grateful for the amazing leaders I get to work with from around the globe. They inspire me to keep learning and growing as a coach, and as a leader. I know it is a cliché, but they really do make me want to be a better human being.

I am also grateful to you for reading this far, and to all of the people who have liked, shared, and commented on my articles and blog posts this year.

Now that the holiday season is upon us, how can you embody and express an attitude of gratitude? It may be the best gift you give — and receive.


bottom of page