How Gratitude Makes for Better Leaders

January 23, 2023 – Negativity and fearfulness can be paralyzing for anyone, but especially for those in positions of leadership. When we are not grateful in the present moment, it is highly unlikely that we will be able to view the future with hope and excitement. Approaching our work from a place of gratitude, however, enables us to be forward-thinking leaders, to be inspired to take risks, to innovate, and to dream about the future, says Joe Rangel, a collaborative partner to executive search firm Bryant Group.

Extreme action isn’t necessary to be transformed by approaching each day with gratitude, says Bryant Group. “Just changing our perspective on our everyday lives can have a major impact not just on us, but on our families, coworkers, donors, clients, patients, neighbors, and even complete strangers,” said the report. “If enough of us approach our work that way, it may even change the entire culture and approach of the institutions we serve.”

Each of us can begin to take on this attitude of gratitude by first looking in the mirror. What am I grateful for about what I have to offer, about who I am? How am I uniquely equipped for the various roles I play in life? How is the world a better place because I am in it? “When I can express gratitude for myself, my sense of intrinsic personal value and inner strength increase exponentially,” said the report. “It is then that it becomes easier for me to recognize that same value and strength in others.”

A Profound Impact

Bryant Group cites the Dalai Lama, who spoke of how practicing gratefulness fostered respect for others. “After all, what is more respectful toward others than being thankful for who they are and that they are a part of my life?” said the report. “Being thankful for others fights off my tendency to view relationships as simply being a series of transactions. It reminds me that other people do not exist to serve my purposes, and it allows me to be more empathetic in my responses to them. Gratitude fosters healthier, more reciprocal relationships. Who doesn’t want that?”

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Being intentionally grateful for ourselves, others, our work, and so much else can also have a profound impact on our overall health and on the health of others. “People who are grateful feel less pain, less stress, suffer insomnia less, have stronger immune systems, experience healthier relationships, and do better academically and professionally,” said Psychology Today, adding that they are “less likely to have mental health problems like depression.”

It is much harder to feel as though all hope is lost if, even in the most difficult of circumstances, we are searching for something for which we can be thankful, says Bryant Group. “It is not uncommon for counselors, therapists, and coaches to have their clients keep a gratitude journal to help them to escape the vicious cycle of negative and fearful thoughts and actions that plague them,” said the report.

A New Perspective

Having an attitude of gratitude really is about how we see the world. “Have you ever watched videos of when colorblind people are handed a pair of glasses that enable them to see colors for the first time?” said the report. “When they first put them on, they look around in awe. Wow! This is what others can see all the time? Then they almost always begin to cry. They had no idea how beautiful the world was and now that they know, they are overwhelmed and touched deeply by it. In reality, nothing has changed about the trees or flowers or birds or the people surrounding them. They are all the same colors they were the second before the person put on the glasses. What has changed, however, is the person’s ability to see the beauty that was there all along.”

This is what living with an attitude of gratitude does for us. “It doesn’t necessarily change the circumstances we find ourselves in (although it often can),” said Bryant Group. “Rather, it enables us to see the good, the uniqueness, and the hope that has been around us, as well as within us, all along.”

Bryant Group specializes in advancement, fundraising, and leadership for universities, hospitals, and other non-profits. Its services include recruiting, talent development, and leadership coaching. The organization’s higher education clients include Stanford University, Harvard University, Michigan State University, Baylor University, the University of New Mexico, and others. Its healthcare clients include UCLA Center for the Health Sciences, the Mayo Clinic in both Minnesota and Arizona, Henry Ford Health Systems, Betty Ford Center, to name just a few. Its other non-profit clients include the American Heart Association, March of Dimes in both California and New York, the J. Paul Getty Trust, and more.

Related: 2023 Business, Leadership, and Executive Search Outlook

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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