All Articles Leadership Management Adding gratitude to your leadership

Adding gratitude to your leadership

Be grateful, and show that gratitude. The cost of ignoring gratitude can be high: dissatisfaction with work, disaffection from the boss and disengagement from the culture.

4 min read


Adding gratitude to your leadership


Gratitude is the outward expression of appreciation for others. As such, it is one of the things we often overlook in our busy lives.

After all, too often, we think to ourselves, “Well, they already know how I feel about them, so why do I have to say out loud?”

That sentiment has been the reason that millions of people have left their jobs. Why? Because they thought no one cared.

A new book by established authors and consultants, Chester Elton and Adrian Gostick, have brought the topic to life: “Leading with Gratitude: Eight Leadership Practices for Extraordinary Business Results.” The two (both colleagues of mine) spend their time researching and teaching concepts of positive culture that are rooted in the appreciation for others.

In this book, through story and data, the two present ideas that focus on “seeing” — observing what you see through the lens of positivity — and “expressing” — acting on your observations to make people feel valued.

Heads will nod reading the above sentence because we “know it.” If so, then why do so many managers ignore it? The authors explore the myths that run the gamut from using fear to motivate, too much praise is too much, “not my thing” to do, the only thing that matters is money, and showing gratitude is “bogus.”

The cost of ignoring gratitude can be high: dissatisfaction with work, disaffection from the boss and disengagement from the culture. Not only do each of these “disses” harm people, but they also hurt the bottom line through absenteeism, turnover and lower productivity.

“A survey by Glassdoor,” Gostick said in our interview, “found that while 81% of people say they’re motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work, by contrast only 38% report working harder when their boss is demanding, and just 37% say they work harder if they fear losing their job.”

Elton added, “What we have found is that ingratitude is more a cognitive problem than a lack of appreciation. While the best leaders actively and consistently look for those things that are being contributed to their success, the ungrateful suffer from information deficit. They don’t know why things are working or why they aren’t.”

Gratitude facilitates trust

“We cannot underestimate the morale-boosting power of gratitude,” says Gostick, “A 200,000-person study conducted for us by a research partner found more grateful managers lead teams with higher overall business metrics including up to two times greater profitability than their peers, an average 20% higher customer satisfaction and significantly higher scores in employee engagement, including vital metrics such as trust and accountability.”

Gratitude emerges from inside of us. There is the myth, says Elton, that “when I make a certain amount of money, get an award, or complete some task, I’ll be happy.”

“What we can all learn is how vital gratitude is for our happiness,” he adds.” The wisest and happiest people we met talk about and practice deep gratitude. What we noticed when we spoke with them is how freely they express it.”

Such expression is rooted in a critical understanding of gratitude. While we think of it as an external showing of feeling, that feeling begins inside of us. Leaders who express gratitude are those who know they have something to offer others. That self-knowledge is essential to the self-esteem leaders need to exhibit if they are to encourage followership.

Put bluntly, if you don’t have something to give, then what value can you offer others?

The good news is, as “Leading with Gratitude” shows, is that while gratitude begins with self, it grows exponentially the more it is shared with our colleagues, our friends and our families.


John Baldoni is an internationally recognized leadership educator and executive coach. In 2018, Trust Across America honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in Trust. Also in 2018, named Baldoni a Top 100 Leadership Speaker. In 2019, Global Gurus ranked him No. 9 on its list of top 30 global experts, a list he has been on since 2007. In 2014, named Baldoni to its list of top 50 leadership experts. Baldoni is the author of 14 books, including“MOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership” and his newest, “GRACE: A Leader’s Guide to a Better Us.” Learn more about why he wrote “GRACE” in this short video.

If you enjoyed this article, sign up for SmartBrief’s free e-mails on leadershipcareer growth and HR, among SmartBrief’s more than 200 industry-focused newsletters.