Monthly Archives: January 2015

Can you learn to be a great Leader? – try GRATITUDE

Welcome to my blog, I plan to write 12 blogs in a new series looking at leadership characteristics. I will draw on my own leadership experience along with observations taken from my executive coaching and mentoring practise. My blogs will be focused and to the point so, do read on as I will help you think differently about leadership and how to approach your work.

But if you are short on time try this visual


There will be problems and this week is likely to present you as a leader, or someone others call a leader with many new challenges. Maybe your teams are not performing, targets missed, your customers or buyers are unhappy and your budgets are overrunning. So, you know what you need to do – be tough minded, make difficult decisions, avoid distraction and focus on the immediate tasks. Or is that the right strategy here? What if instead of being tough minded and focused, firing off directives from the executive floor you went out and around your organisation saying thanks to people? What if at the end of each day you wrote down what you were thankful for in your day and also write down who you had said thanks to. That’s crazy, you don’t have time for that. You have to lead from the front and face problems head on. Its tough so staff need to see you modelling tough don’t they? They don’t need the ceo out bothering and distracting them. And, you have back to back meets all day and you will struggle to find time for lunch let alone have anything much to feel positive about. But, what if I told you research shows gratitude works as an effective leadership intervention. It will help build your presence and will help you specifically over time by; Changing your perspective – once you start to practise gratitude your mind will focus on the positives and the possibilities in situations. It stops you becoming inward looking obsessed with problems and instead your mind starts to clear as you develop a focus on others. Energy –You will start to lead with more energy and commitment as you turn setbacks and challenges into opportunities. You will find creativity to deal with the challenges you and your organisation face, because you are outward focused. Resilience -You will become stronger with greater psychological reserves as you start to build personal and inter personal resilience. I’m not talking unrealistic over optimism but a different perspective on your challenges and problems. You will draw your team around you as they feel valued and attended to by you. So it’s not about you being tough, it’s about a strong team. Getting it back- Leadership is often talked about as a lonely place. No one speaks truth to power and no one walks the journey with you. But gratitude draws others in as when they start to experience you showing genuine gratitude they will offer it back to you. It’s not about you –You will start to see your staff as your greatest asset. You will start to see the person behind the title and start to feel a genuine rapport with those who can engage with gratitude. You will stop feeling you have to solve the problems and instead engage the organisation and its people. Challenges move -It will at times seem almost miraculous when challenges get solved because people collaborate with you with focused and clear minds. They start to know their efforts get noticed so they work harder. Morale will improve – The morale of your workforce will improve as they feel valued. They will focus more clearly on the task as they are not held back by negatively. You will unlock all that discretionary effort that is currently taken up in resisting change or fighting the system. You will become more self-aware – many leaders become isolated, self-absorbed and have a different view of themselves to their staff, their team and their organisations. They get lost in the job of leadership and take reinforcement from the status and the power. Now gratitude given and received starts to slowly open you up to genuine feedback, to noticing others and they then notice when you make a difference. You will be surprised by what others see as important in the leader. You will start to integrate your life – evidence suggests most leaders only talk to other leaders. People who are just like them but it takes a whole organisation to deliver the business so you need ways to engage with all those not like you. If you are a Myers Briggs ENTJ leader you are just 4% of the world. So, what do all those others think!! You will start to find yourself more at ease talking to the PA, the post room staff, your own partner and kids and break into fabulous spontaneous conversations when the train is delayed. You will become a leader who has followers – A CEO can get on a soap box, meet teams, sign off strategic plans but they only become real leaders when they have followers. So, how do you start? Start small, start private and start genuine. Get a notebook keep it by your bed or in your work bag. Write down each day no more than five things you are grateful for. Even on a terrible day when the trains late, a key buyer pulls out or your team misses monthly performance by a barn mile you still had a great cup of coffee. So, write it down. Be genuine, don’t shout about it and don’t kid yourself with big statements. If you are a real leader you are deep in the muck and bullets so a great coffee or a train home that ran to time today might be the best you can do. But, start there it will get better and bigger if you do this genuinely and for at least a month. Once you have got the hang of the GRATITUDE LIST then start a second list; Think of the people you said thanks to today, the bus driver, your PA for that great cup of coffee. The cab driver or your deputy who pulled off the deal for the team.  Notice this list, you might struggle to even put one thank you down at first. You may notice you are rubbish at saying well done or thank you but better at barking orders. So leave it blank and tomorrow commit to say one thank you to anyone, to someone, and mean it. Keep these two lists for a month then review yourself against the characteristics I listed above. Notice how the lists changed and developed, what have you learnt about yourself and notice how you feel about yourself, your family, your work. I’m certain you will do better on authenticity, self-awareness and resilience. You may also have more energy, better staff morale and business success…. Staying with gratitude let’s finish with a story from Aesop… A Slave ran away from his master, by whom he had been most cruelly treated, and, in order to avoid capture, betook himself into the desert. As he wandered about in search of food and shelter, he came to a cave, which he entered and found to be unoccupied. Really, however, it was a Lion’s den, and almost immediately, to the horror of the wretched fugitive, the Lion himself appeared. The man gave himself up for lost: but, to his utter astonishment, the Lion, instead of springing upon him and devouring him, came and fawned upon him, at the same time whining and lifting up his paw. Observing it to be much swollen and inflamed, he examined it and found a large thorn embedded in the ball of the foot. He accordingly removed it and dressed the wound as well as he could: and in course of time it healed up completely. The Lion’s gratitude was unbounded; he looked upon the man as his friend, and they shared the cave for some time together. A day came, however, when the Slave began to long for the society of his fellow-men, and he bade farewell to the Lion and returned to the town. Here he was presently recognised and carried off in chains to his former master, who resolved to make an example of him, and ordered that he should be thrown to the beasts at the next public spectacle in the theatre. On the fatal day the beasts were loosed into the arena, and among the rest a Lion of huge bulk and ferocious aspect; and then the wretched Slave was cast in among them. What was the amazement of the spectators, when the Lion after one glance bounded up to him and lay down at his feet with every expression of affection and delight! It was his old friend of the cave! The audience clamoured that the Slave’s life should be spared: and the governor of the town, marvelling at such gratitude and fidelity in a beast, decreed that both should receive their liberty. We never know when gratitude will be returned so go on start it today. If you like my approach then do contact me to talk to you as a leader or to your team. I love and learn from feedback so do tell me what you think of the blog………

pictorial view of the blog thanks to @engagevisually