Gratitude should be on the minds of most Americans as we enter another Thanksgiving week. Many of us will travel near and far to gather with family and friends, enjoying a respite from our hectic lives.
This unique American holiday began as a simple meal where the first settlers in Jamestown, Virginia gathered to thank God for his provisions. In 1863, with our nation in the midst of a civil war, Lincoln proclaimed an annual day of thanksgiving urging his fellow Americans to remember that the nation’s blessings were “gracious gifts of the most high God.”
Today’s Thanksgiving celebrations focus more on feasting, shopping, and watching football than pausing to express gratitude. Are we aware and grateful for the gifts we have, even on a day designated for that very purpose?
Leaders have many opportunities each day to express our gratitude. It can be something small like a sincere “thank you” or more formal like a promotion or bonus for a job well done. Many workers in our country never experience the joy of meaningful praise from their boss. In fact, feeling unappreciated or underappreciated is one of the primary reasons employees leave their jobs.
Can someone genuinely convey gratitude to another if a spirit of gratitude hasn’t transformed his or her own heart? In other words, can I express gratefulness without first being grateful? It’s an interesting question to ponder during this Thanksgiving season.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, my leadership thoughts are deeply rooted in my faith and in the belief that a leader’s relationship with those they serve (employees, customers, and vendors) is dynamic and transformational. When leaders practice courage or exhibit vulnerability they transform how others view them and relate to them. If leaders serve, tell the truth, and love those who follow them the workplace is transformed into a sanctuary.
Expressing gratitude is transforming.
Thomas Merton writes, “To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything He has given us—and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”
Who will I meet today that represents a gift to me, the person who will bring me what I need for this moment in time? Perhaps more importantly, who is waiting for me to offer that same gracious gift to them? That’s why leaders need gratitude.
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