In my 20+ years of leadership, I draw a complete blank trying to think of a great leader I’ve studied who didn’t show a spirit of gratitude.
If that statement sounds odd to you, just take some time to read or listen to your favorite leaders. I will almost guarantee they use “thank you” regularly but also genuinely. Why is this important?
Well, to me it’s important because it’s almost impossible to be bitter when you make it a habit to be grateful. And bitterness is one of those traits that will hold you back as a leader.
Think about where bitterness comes from:
You didn’t get something you felt like you earned, or someone else got something you should have gotten.
Someone else’s success drives you crazy.
And there it is…entitlement.
I gave a talk to a group of young leaders recently about entitlement. It’s a great topic because when you ask for thoughts on that word, most people associate entitlement with the mentality of a specific group of people, or with a political stance.
But if we’re honest, we all have it inside us. We believe we deserve certain things, or certain recognition. The more we let those thoughts sink in, the more bitter we become until we settle into the entitlement trap…the feeling that no matter what we have, we constantly need more to be satisfied or content.
The truth is, with that mentality, nothing we can ever achieve or accumulate will ever be good enough. Guaranteed!
So how do we fight it?
In his book The Entitlement Cure, Dr. John Townsend recommends changing “I deserve” to “I am responsible”. That little shift in perspective changes everything about how you approach everything. If you “deserve”, you’re more prone to sit back and wait for it to happen (and it most likely won’t). If you are “responsible”, it shifts your mindset to a pro-active approach. “I have to take action for this to happen”.
Simple but brilliant. I agree 100%.
But I wouldn’t stop here. I would add one more thing:
Take a look at what you’re putting into your mind.
How do you start your day? Do you feed yourself political junk? Do you jump on social media and sink into all the polarizing posts of the day? What is the first information you are putting in your mind each day?
When I ask this question, most people I’ve met (who want to get better in this area) admit they probably don’t have the right focus to start their day. So to fight this, I have them audit what they’re reading or listening to for a week. Once we discover the junk they’re putting in, we get buy-in on how to make a change.
And that change is to focus on all the reasons each of us has to be grateful.
It’s a true spirit of gratitude for all the positive things in your life. A successful business, a loving family, your health, resources to spend on yourself or others, etc.
And as I mentioned here, it’s taking the time to recognize others for their impact on your life.
Try this for one week. Every morning, instead of pulling up social media or watching political TV, spend 5-10 minutes writing down things from the day before that you are grateful for. Find something positive to read to yourself and do it daily for one week (if you need ideas, comment below and I’ll send you some). Eliminate the temptation to check into Facebook or to read/listen to anything political.
Then do it for another week. Then another week. After a month, it’ll be a habit and you’ll be a different person. You’ll find yourself much more present and aware in your day-to-day life. You won’t be focused on what you don’t have or what you “deserve” but will live in real appreciation for all that is good in your life.
And that’s the mindset the most successful leaders have.
It’s contagious too.
Just wait and see the impact you’ll have on those around you.
I’ll leave you with this parting thought from Zig Ziglar – “Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.”