“A grateful heart is a beginning of greatness. It is an expression of humility. It is a foundation for the development of such virtues as prayer, faith, courage, contentment, happiness, love, and well-being.” James E. Faust
This weekend I attended the memorial service for a friend and member of my faith community. There was a common theme that emerged as family and friends remembered his life. He was a man who was always grateful.
On the occasion of his 80th birthday, more than 11 years ago, he gave his family a card that listed 80 things he was grateful for. Nothing was too insignificant, including the pin oak trees that graced his property.
What a wonderful reminder for anyone who aspires to leadership! So many of today’s leaders are self-centered, selfish, and even narcissistic. They have adopted the notion that I am here to be served, that my ideas and needs are what matter most.
Grateful leaders are more interested in serving others. They gain pleasure in seeing those they serve grow and develop. They are generous with their praise and genuinely want others to succeed.
My father modeled a spirit of gratefulness when he was still alive. Because of ongoing heart concerns, he was keenly aware that life is a gift. He reveled in the presence of grandchildren, rather than feeling pressure to always be doing things. A quiet time on the front porch swing, listening to the tick of his pocket watch, or watching the birds at his backyard feeder were expressions of his relationship with them.
Dad gratefulness included the opportunity to do meaningful work in the dirt during his retirement years and share in the bounty of his “green acre” with neighbors and friends. He even found pleasure in being his wife’s primary caregiver as she experienced declining health.
What did my dad and my friend understand about being grateful that others seem to miss?
Is there a secret formula we can adopt?
I’m not sure I have the answer to these questions, but I do believe you can’t experience a grateful heart unless you understand the value of service to others. It may be as simple as sharing a smile or holding the door open for someone. Perhaps it is saying “thank you” for a job well done or praising a direct report whose work benefited the organization or your team.
Grateful people take an interest in others. They notice those who are easily missed. They befriend those who are harder to accept and love. They thoughtfully listen to and patiently mentor others.
I cherish the memories of my dear friend and my dad for the way they both challenge me, even in death, to be more grateful as a leader, a husband, a father, and a person.
What are you grateful for as a leader? How long would your list be?
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