Leadership Through Gratitude

Leadership must consider that gratitude has a legitimate place in any consideration of positive organizational functioning. Gratitude is a universal human virtue.  It encourages ongoing learning and creativity and engages one in the empowerment of others.

Gratitude Defined

Leadership Through GratitudePark and Peterson (2003) say gratitude includes those inner qualities which strengthen bonds and connections.  Organizations can attain a positive psychology that will enhance employee engagement by creating an environment of gratitude.  “It is a well spring of trust and goodwill that can serve as a hallmark of positive organizational performance.” (Robert A. Emmons 2003)

A New Leadership Tool

In the April 9, 2014, issue of the Harvard Business Review, David DeSteno says leadership can consider gratitude as the new willpower.  Along with colleagues Ye Li, Jennifer Lerner and Leah Dickens they designed an experiment to test how gratitude affects discounting and financial impatience.

They presented participants with 27 questions, which pit a desire for immediate cash against a willingness to wait for a larger future reward.  Before a decision could be made the participants were randomly assigned to recall an event from their past that made them feel (a) grateful, (b) happy or (c) neutral.  Results included that those who chose grateful showed significantly more patience waiting for the later, larger payout.  They concluded that gratitude can be a new tool for leadership for long term success.

Appreciative Inquiry

Gratitude is important because of its demonstrated link with positive outcomes.  The methodology Appreciative Inquiry, which was developed by Case Western Reserve University through the Department of Organizational Behavior by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva, shows how building up virtual capital in the work place searches for the best in people, their organizations and the relevant world around them.  It asks questions that strengthen a systems capacity to apprehend, anticipate and heighten positive potential.

Gratitude as a Business Strategy

Howie Jacobson writes that “there is nothing wrong with expecting excellence, and taking steps to get it.  The problem is that we tend to take excellence and thoughtfulness and kindness for granted.”  He believes there is a “gratitude-to-criticism” ratio that we experience when we are not appreciated enough.  He calls this GDD – Gratitude Deficit Disorder.  It occurs where all our good intentions and actions receive more flak than gratitude. People need to know they matter, they deserve “honest, unselfish respectful acknowledgement”.  He believes a strategy including gratitude could actually make more money for a company.

“Even more than money,” says Cheryl Connor on Forbes.com, “an environment of gratitude creates the opportunity to serve with great leaders and genuine appreciation inspires employees to engage fully to produce stellar work.”

According to the Gallup poll, U.S. workers are more likely to get a sense of identity from their job.  Gratitude is one of the most significant predictors of how workers approach their job.

Leadership Must Cultivate Gratitude

Robert A. Emmons says the “cultivation of gratitude in the work place has direct effects of improving organizational climate, but also as a cognitive strategy, gratitude can improve individual well-being and lower toxic emotions such as resentment and envy.”  He continues that “Moods are determiners of efficiency, success, productivity, and employees’ loyalty.”  Gratitude is a powerful strategy in today’s business world for leadership to deploy.