Effective Leaders Need To Show Gratitude
Have you ever stopped to consider the difference between gratitude and appreciation? Especially in terms of how they relate to leadership, what separates one from the other?
According to leadership coach Star Dargin, it’s an important distinction.
In her book Leading With Gratitude: 21st Century Solutions to Boost Engagement and Innovation, Dargin examines the need for gratitude from those in positions of leadership, extolling its ability to make employees more engaged and satisfied in their work.
Leadership As Vulnerability
Leadership can be a difficult topic of study and consideration because of how old it is, and the many definitions there are for it. In attempting to better understand leadership, Dargin appreciates the work of Brené Brown, a scientist that has studied leadership.
Brown has found that the definition of leadership overlaps with the definition of vulnerability, in that a leader must be able to flourish in a state of flux so that they can effectively manage subordinates through uncertainty. According to Brown, exercising gratitude is a direct way to vulnerability.
Gratitude As Good Health
Dargin also notes that gratitude is good for the person who exercises it as well. As beneficial as it is for subordinates to be shown gratitude, studies have shown that it can improve social lives, health, and general wellbeing of those who practice it. Grateful people are healthy people: they live longer, heal faster and are often less depressed or suicidal.
“For instance, research has found that waitresses who are authentically appreciative get larger tips and board game players who are shown gratitude win more often because they take more risks,” said Dargin to Forbes. “You can start to connect these types of gratitude studies to the development of more effective leadership skills.”
Gratitude Is An Underrecognized Factor In Effective Leadership
Can you remember a time when gratitude was a part of a conversation you had about leadership?
Maybe not in name, but it’s likely been invoked in less direct ways. As Dargin notes, gratitude is a part of so many commonly accepted leadership traits and qualities.
“[…] gratitude is ingrained in many leadership practices today, often by using different terms. In fact, I’ve pulled over 50 books on leadership off my shelves and, in all of them, words such as appreciation, recognition, positivity, and thankfulness appear,” said Dargin to Forbes. “Yet, these are all flavors of gratitude without being gratitude themselves.”
You’ve likely heard lots about “engagement” as a metric for success in leadership, and for good reason – you can measure it. The more engaged an employee is in their work due to how they’re being led, the better return on that investment the business will see. However, Dargin notes that an engaged employee doesn’t necessarily feel gratitude.
The same goes for “celebration” and “recognition”. They may be expressions of gratitude, but they are not themselves gratitude. Consider how one employee may enjoy being publicly recognized for an accomplishment, whereas another, perhaps shyer counterpart would find it embarrassing. In the latter case, the employee certainly wouldn’t feel gratitude.
How To Show Gratitude As A Leader
Saying “thank you” doesn’t necessarily show gratitude. As Dargin notes, two types of common “thank you’s” fail to impart gratitude:
- The reflex “thank you”: In North America, it’s much more common than in other parts of the world to say thank you as a reflex. Even if you don’t like a gift you’re given, you’re likely to say thank you.
- The expectant “thank you”: Similarly, there’s the way in which we feign showing gratitude with the expectation of something in return.
Dargin explains that effective gratitude should be stated plainly and simply. To say so consciously and authentically requires you to do so in a simple way.
“In essence, explicitly using the word gratitude in an authentic way cuts through the heaviness of other gratitude-encompassing words like engagement,” said Dargin to Forbes. “It is simple and comes from the heart, so why not say, “I’m grateful” instead of using these other words?”
What Does Gratitude Have To Do With IT?
Too often, the conversation surrounding IT and business technology is just about the product. Which type of hardware you need, which cloud solution is best, which Wi-Fi router will get you the best connection.
This tendency overlooks that fact that IT is nothing without the user. It’s a tool, one that needs to be wielded effectively, a fundamental part of which is how the user is treated.
The managers, owners, and others in positions of leadership at Philantech3 believe that positive and effective leadership is a crucial part of an effective IT environment and business culture as a whole. We share these insights from Dargin with you because we know that, in practice, they’ll have a positive effect on our staff – and we believe they will for yours as well.
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