Great Leaders Demonstrate Thankfulness

Gerwig 2016-03-30

Are you a Republican or a Democrat? Neither? Perhaps you’re a Libertarian or an Independent. Regardless of your political persuasion, Washington, DC is a fun and interesting place to visit. Even if you don’t care for politics at all, Washington is a great destination. You can find world-class museums, art, and academics. You can find a potpourri of nationalities, races, and ethnicities. You can find evidences of cultures from all over the globe, including food, drink, and music. There’s a bit of history, too.

Over Easter weekend, my family made a long overdue trip to DC. And we packed a lot into 3 days, taking in the many of DC’s key sights and sounds. We got up early and went all over the city, walking 15 miles a day, riding the Metro, waiting in lines, and generally being typical DC “touristas!” It was a blast.

While my personal favorite was the Library of Congress, we also made the requisite visit to the White House. It was late in the afternoon. Quiet. Perfect weather. Tranquil. It was hard to believe that the White House is one of the key political symbols of the United States. A symbol that can, potentially, be divisive depending upon your political wiring. To many, the White House, like the Capital, represents the good about the US political system. Yet others are reminded about the negative aspects of big government. Side-by-side, one group of tourists looked upon DC’s iconic buildings and saw positive things like hope, freedom and democracy while the other group looked upon the same buildings and saw greed, arrogance and abuse.

I made a conscience choice to look upon the White House, Capitol, and Supreme Court with thankfulness. This was a choice, a choice that was more difficult when I looked upon the Internal Revenue Service building, but a choice nonetheless. Regardless of my political views (especially in an election year), regardless of some “bad” government officials, politicians, and laws, I chose to be thankful. I’m thankful to live in the US. I’m thankful for “good” politicians, true public servants, and for laws that provide stability.

Have you ever noticed that great leaders demonstrate thankfulness? It’s not easy, but it is a choice. Great leaders do not demonstrate an attitude of entitlement. They are not jealous or bitter. They do not focus on the negative. Great leaders choose to focus on the positive. They demonstrate thankfulness. Do they live in a bubble? Of course not! Are they naive? Not! Great leaders see things how they are, but they choose to be thankful. It’s a choice.

If you’re a corporate leader, you may have experienced this in the last couple months. All around the globe, the 1st quarter is a time when “bosses” conduct annual performance reviews. I’ve been doing reviews for over 20 years and I’m always fascinated by the response of those receiving the reviews. Without fail, there is that person who, despite receiving a good review, isn’t happy. They aren’t thankful. They received an A but they wanted an A+. They received a 5% pay increase but they wanted a 6% increase. They received a 15% bonus but they wanted a 20% bonus. You know one thing I’ve noticed over the years, working in multiple industries, companies, and geographies? The best performers, the great leaders, are thankful for their review. They’re thankful for the feedback. They’re thankful for their increase (regardless of the amount). They have confidence that over the long-run things will work out. They know that even the best system isn’t perfect. They build upon and appreciate what they have.

Ever hear the ancient story about 10 lepers who were miraculously cured of their disease? Do you remember that only 1 returned to say “thanks”? Choose to be a great leader. Choose to be in the minority. Take the high road. Demonstrate humility and be thankful. It’s what great leaders do.

Regardless of your political views, regardless of your annual performance review, regardless of your merit/pay increase, and regardless of your situation, be thankful. Demonstrate thankfulness. Being thankful doesn’t mean you have to check your ambition or settle for mediocrity or even agree with your appraisal “score.” Being thankful simply means that you keep things in perspective, don’t take yourself too seriously, serve others and think of them first, and take a long-term view.

You’ll find that being thankful has benefits. People will want to hang out with you. You’ll be more likely to receive helpful feedback. You’ll build stronger and longer lasting relationships. You’ll even be more successful.

How about you? Are you thankful? Do you appreciate what you have? Or do you have a sense of entitlement? A sense that you haven’t been given enough? Are you content?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.

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