What’s the deal with Leadership?
Usually at this time of year, we love to speak to thankfulness, its importance, and especially for the things we are grateful for in life. I look forward to broadening that theme to include Leadership, specifically Grateful Leadership, and how I use it to define my personal Leadership Style.
When most people begin to speak to Leadership, they first define it. Although to a degree we all know what Leadership is and what it means, it’s clear that definition is broad and expansive as this list proves.
My favourite way to define Leadership is to talk about what it’s not:
- It’s not managing
- It’s not telling other people what to do
- It’s not using people as resources to accomplish a personal goal
- It’s not about control
People follow Managers (and other authority figures) because they must. People follow Leaders because they choose to. Leaders have the ability to influence and inspire people to take action.
Whenever I’ve read a definition of leadership or attended a management workshop, I found I had a very “well, duh!” attitude to most topics covered. It seemed that management and leadership were so straight forward that you could simply use common sense to wield power and get positive results.
After a few workshops, I realized that something that came naturally to me, did not necessarily come natural to others. Even more so, I excelled in expressing gratitude where others did not realize that was even an important thing to do.
What is Grateful Leadership?
Grateful Leadership comes down to the most obvious thing: gratitude.
Grateful Leadership means acknowledging people in an authentic and heartfelt manner. It means saying thank you. It means being specific in your praise. It means knowing and understanding what drives and motivates people. It means understanding what others appreciate.
Grateful Leadership is often categorized as having a genuine interest in what people have to say. This means you are motivated to truly understand others, what motivates them and how you can change your approach to respect their personal work style.
It also means having a genuine appreciation for the people you’re working with.
Finally, as a Grateful Leader, you do not view people just a resource to get a job done. You don’t take advantage of what people can offer, and you don’t manipulate them. You are honest-to-goodness thankful for their support! You don’t view people as interchangeable; rather, you appreciate what an individual has to offer that another cannot.
Why is it important?
Feeling appreciated is a need that most people have. And it’s hard for people to express when that need is not being met. Firstly, we may not recognize that this is a need or that it’s not being fulfilled. Just because we leave work or another commitment feeling grumpy, tired and drained, doesn’t mean we can automatically pinpoint that it’s because of not being appreciated or thanked – especially when this starts happening over a period of time. Secondly, just because we have identified that a need is not being met, does not mean it’s easy to communicate that.
As Laura Trice points out in her TED Talk on The Power of Saying Thank You, we don’t tell other people our needs, because they come from our vulnerabilities. We would be sharing information that is intimate, personal and puts us in a vulnerable position. Is someone likely going to share that vulnerability with their boss? Before trust has been established?
Why should you care about being a Grateful Leader?
The two most important things, in my humble opinion, when working on a team are: Trust & Communication.
Without tust, communication suffers. Without communication, there is no trust. These two items hinge heavily on each other. Once trust is gone from a team, it can be nearly impossible to get back.
Expressing sincere and honest appreciation for someone’s work is a great building block for both trust and communication. Valuing someone as an individual – and not just a tool to complete a job – can influence them to dramatically increase their productivity and engagement. It shows that you’re paying attention as leader and taking note of individual contributions. It’s also a way to get to know your peers and colleagues and understand them better.
How do you express Thanks?
It’s important to be specific and sincere in your appreciation. Compare the two examples below:
- 1: “Everyone did a great job last week – thanks for your hard work completing that project!”
- 2: “I want to thank everyone on this team for coming together to complete the project we were working on. Tammy, you stayed late and even missed your son’s soccer game to get this done! Bill, you put in extra effort to ensure the final draft didn’t have any errors. Rebecca actually drove the final copy to our partners instead of having it mailed. Your work is really appreciated!”
Ex. 1 seems nice at first glance. But imagine if you received this over and over again. What about your specific contributions to the team? What was great about the project? After all, it wasn’t a smooth process getting it completed. And now it sounds like we’re ready to rush into the next one.
Ex. 2 delves into specifics. The communicator has highlighted the different contributions of individuals on the team, acknowledged sacrifices they may have made, and shared appreciation of their ability to work together. Bill knows his proofing skills are valued, Tammy knows that making a personal sacrifice was noticed, and Rebecca is recognized for doing something outside the norm – even if it was her job to do so.
Why do I care so much about Grateful Leadership?
I worked in an organization where I constantly felt undervalued for my work, where none of my extra efforts were noticed, or – my favourite – when I did something above and beyond my role not only was it not noted, sometimes it was “punished.”
I now take even more care to make someone feel appreciated. It felt as though my former boss ruled under a “No Thank You” policy! If you did the work in your job description, you weren’t thanked because it is expected. And if you went above and beyond, you weren’t thanked, because no one asked you to, so why should that be appreciated?
That kind of mentality really wears a person down. That mentality is one that no person with “common sense” should ever develop. However, no matter our leadership style, there is always room for more gratefulness. It’s not just the horror-story managers that are lacking in their gratitude. We can all improve.
It costs nothing, and means everything.
Submitted by Kaitlyn Samways, NLSW Committee Member