Is it just me or does everyone find that the leaders we are most attracted to tend to be the ones who are most grateful? After many years of experience with some of the best and some of the worst leaders in UK and European organisations I am convinced grateful leaders make the best leaders. Yet in spite of this fact why is it the mantle of leadership can turn good men and women into the most ungrateful bosses and leaders?
I fully appreciate that leadership brings its own unique pressures and demands. Bosses feel a pressure few others feel. Managers have multiple additional responsibilities that never seem to be in that original exciting job description and for many they carry the leadership mantle like a heavy burden everywhere they go wearing them down day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute.
So here are my thoughts based on many years of trying to be a good Boss myself and to inspire others to be inspiring leader. I hope these musings can help some of the new generation of leaders to break free from this melancholy. Throw of the coat of ungratefulness and embrace the wonderful experience of being a grateful Manager. As we approach the Festive season here are my four Christmas gifts for you. Four reasons why I believe being a grateful boss will make you a great boss.
1) My gratitude to my team impacts my whole attitude.
A grateful leader is a great leader. An ungrateful leader, can never seek this greatness as it is impossible to win the hearts and minds of their teams while their focus remains in the negative and they never feel the joy of saying thank you and well done for the work delivered on their behalf. If your head is full of negativity then your attitude flows from that same disgruntled source.
When your gratitude to others is alive and flowing your whole approach to leading your team is driven from the same positive force. Working with a colleague in a recent interim appointment they asked me why I remained so positive about my team even when they let me down. The question troubled me but I stopped short of reprimanding him for suggesting he knew more about my team than I did. Instead I shared with him my views on gratitude including a quote from Charles R Swindoll who once said “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” We spent quite a bit of time off and on talking this through helping him see the value of always seeing the best in his team and being grateful for everything they do. Months later I met in him the corridor, he was beaming from ear to ear and before I could say a word he said “I know , I know – its great I feel so much happier, I feel so much closer to my team and their individual needs, I’m less resentful. I’m less suspicious I’m turning into YOU!!!, I am so grateful”.
2) Being grateful has allowed me to see opportunities I might otherwise have missed.
I believe having a grateful attitude opens our minds and clears out the negativity that multiplies in an ungrateful mind like toadstools covering a dead tree. I call it “Plenty Thinking” and it’s based on the concept that positivity creates thinking space. An ungrateful mind tends to translate what hasn’t happened into what can’t happen, what won’t happen and what will never happen. But a grateful mind thinks about everything that happened, gives thanks and trusts that even greater things can happen, will happen and should happen.
Some of you reading this (you call yourself realists – you know who you are) are tutting and declaring “feeling grateful won’t change anything”. Well let me tell you this – few people said it better than Henry Ford when he said, “Whether you believe you can or whether you believe you can’t, you’re right.”
A recent European Chief Executive I worked for asked me to deliver a solution to his organisational dilemma. On reading it he said “that will never work, the management here will never take to that, this won’t work” – I replied “You’re absolutely Right” and then I said “as Chief Executive of this organisation, what you think determines what we do.” N.B. they never did! – He remained absolutely right.
3) My Teams have always been drawn by my gratitude.
Sadly in this twenty first century when many are facing working life of at least sixty years more than 75% are already stating they do not enjoy their jobs. With the likelihood of work taking a much larger chuck of our life time how sad it is that so many see it as only a means to an end. The painful mechanism required to deliver the source of revenue we all need to survive. In the most recent polls published the single biggest reason for lack of job satisfaction was – feeling unappreciated. I’m not kidding myself if we didn’t need to work many wouldn’t and many look for their next job based solely on the possibility of increasing their income but even money has its limits. Eventually, you can’t pay people anymore to overcome your ungrateful spirit.
A Public Sector Chief Executive once asked me to investigate why his people were so ungrateful. The more he explained the problem the more I knew the answer without doing anymore research. He finished his challenge to me by saying “they are so ungrateful – one of them even left for a job with less pay”. Blinded by his own negativity he could not see that many staff would rather work for less for someone who was grateful than for an ungrateful leader who paid more. We must never forget gratitude is the greatest currency with which a leader can pay a team. I never allow myself to forget that every capable person could work somewhere else.
4) Gratitude neutralises my anger and jealousy.
I have learned the hard way that grateful people are rarely angry. And angry people are rarely grateful. I have spent decades cultivating gratitude as I have discovered that it has a direct impact on anxiety and ultimately temper. We must not forget no one owes us their loyalty, it has to be earned and given freely. Everything our teams do will be a direct result of our gratitude for what they have already done.
Take care leaders – you can try all the gimmicks and all the Harvard business techniques but if you are not grateful to your team you are nothing more than an empty vessel speaking a foreign language to a team who have long since stopped listening to you.