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We’re in the season of analyzing what worked and what didn’t this year and looking to create a strategy for the New Year. The business experts are filling the shelves and our inboxes with their thoughts on what is needed to finally get the results you want. I’ve looked at a lot of the lists, attended many seminars and read the books and the strategy that I almost never see is gratitude. Gratitude is one of the most underappreciated growth strategies. When it is spoken about, it typically is in the context of business development and customer service. The growth strategy of gratitude I encourage you to have as you make your plans is as a leader to your people.

Sir Richard Branson says, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients.”

In my judgement, the simplest way to take care of your employees is through gratitude. This gratitude however, must transcend saying “thank you.” Gratitude must permeate everything the leader does and says. “The Anatomy of a Grateful Leader” reveals the seven parts of a grateful leader and the role gratitude plays in your strategy.

Mind – Think gratitude

We are overwhelmed with negativity and problems and the deficiencies are where our focus goes. If your child brings home a report card with all A’s, B’s and one D. Where will your focus immediately go? In your business, it is the same. Develop a practice to start each day of what is true in your business today and what you are grateful for. That doesn’t mean you turn a blind eye to the issues but the gratitude allows you to start from a place of abundance rather than scarcity as you face those issues.

Eyes – Look for strengths

The majority of the average person’s mental chatter falls into the categories of thoughts related to inferiority (“Other people are going to do better than me.”), thoughts related to love and approval (“How come I wasn’t invited?”) and thoughts related to control-seeking (“Why don’t my co-workers or manager ever listen to the suggestions I make?”). A leader expresses gratitude by how she sees those she leads. In Tibet, people greet each other by pressing their palms together and with the phrase, “Tashi Delay,” which means, “I see the greatness in you.” A grateful leader sees and genuinely honors the greatness in those they lead and works to discover and develop this greatness.

Ears – Listen deeply

Henry David Thoreau said, “The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought and attended to my answer.” A leader expresses gratitude when they listen deeply to those they lead. A grateful leader listens without personal agenda and is completely focused on what the other person is saying in that moment. Their ears are totally tuned in and listening for what is said, what’s not said and what is between the words.

Heart – Be Open

A grateful leader has an open heart to those he leads. He expresses gratitude in consistently putting the interests of others ahead of his own. His authenticity is deeply appreciated by those he leads because it gives the message, “I appreciate you and trust you.” A grateful leader is consistently caring even in the face of challenges and high stress times and even when one of his employees isn’t very likeable.

Mouth – Ask questions

What comes out of the leader’s mouth is the evidence of what is in the leader’s heart. When it comes to leadership it’s all about what you say, how you say it, and sometimes that you say nothing at all. What comes out of our mouths matters. The grateful leader uses questions more than any other type of sentence or phrase. The questions come from a place of curiosity and genuine interest in what the other person has to say or is thinking about. The questions help the other person gain clarity about a situation, bring about discovery, and produce action.

Hands – Develop people

If the core of a grateful leader is her heart, then the epitome of the grateful leader’s work is her hands. Nothing provides more hard and fast evidence that she is a grateful leader than her hands. The grateful leader’s hands don’t hesitate to get dirty. When a difficult problem or situation arises, the leader puts her hands into the matter—not to meddle, but to help accomplish the goal and when a situation calls for “all hands on deck” the leader’s hands are included. The hands of a grateful leader also know when to be hand’s off to allow team members and co-workers to experiment and take risks.

Feet – Stay balanced

A grateful leader can be counted on to give thanks, praise and valuable feedback to their people. A grateful leader understands that to have a positive relationship with someone, there should be a ratio of three positive interactions to every negative one. A grateful leader is attuned to what is needed in a particular moment and is not accused of being out of touch with his or her team.

To be a grateful leader, gratitude is integrated into every aspect of what you do. If you’re asking, “Am I being grateful enough?” Multiply your gratitude by ten with the strategies listed above and see the difference.



“The Anatomy of a Grateful Leader” infographic and guide reveals the seven parts of a grateful leader and the role gratitude plays in your strategy.

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Jeff Harmon

Jeff Harmon is the president of Brilliance Within Coaching & Consulting which specializes in developing servant leaders while helping them translate their strategies into actionable plans that drive business results. Jeff is the author of “The Anatomy of a Principled Leader.” Jeff has been developing leaders for nearly 20 years and has led the execution of over 100,000 hours of business strategy for information technology, financial services and non-profit organizations.

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