“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands! 2 Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! 3 Know that the Lord is God! It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him, bless his name! 5 For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures for ever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”
The benefits of gratitude are well-documented. This Newsweek article highlights that grateful people are healthier and sleep better. They are also more hopeful, more empathetic, more resilient, more helpful and have greater self-esteem. Just 15 minutes a day spent giving thanks can change your life.
Besides these benefits, gratitude will make you a better leader. Here’s how.
Gratitude reminds you that it’s not about you
Whether you work for a church, nonprofit or mission-based organization, it’s not about you. If you’re focused on what you can get out of it, you’ve missed the point. On the other hand, if your personal mission is aligned with your organization’s purpose, then you realize that the work you do is about something much greater than yourself.
When you’re grateful, you’re more likely to think about the good things that are happening because of the work you do. It’s not all because of you, but you are part of something that is making a difference in the world.
The mission of The United Methodist Church, of which I’m a part, is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. This outward focus is all about loving God and loving neighbor, especially those most in need. As I have grown in my Christian walk, I find that I feel most blessed when I see something good happening in someone else’s life. When I have had a part in that, I’m filled with gratitude. It’s not about us, but about the God we serve and the people we serve.
Gratitude reminds you that you can’t do it alone
None of us can do it alone. You work together with others to achieve greater things than you can do on your own. Whether a family, church or organization of any size, relationships matter. Giving thanks for those relationships will make you a better friend, spouse, sibling, child, co-worker and leader.
My daily prayer time includes a litany of prayers for immediate and extended family, the sick, the grieving, the Pecometh staff, our Bishop and cabinet, colleagues in ministry, my pastor and the staff of a ministry in which I volunteer. I pray for each of these persons by name.
When you pray for other people you think more kindly of them. It’s also a good time to express your gratitude for them. Instead of thinking about what they haven’t done for you, think of how knowing them, living with them, working with them makes your life better.
Gratitude helps you keep your priorities in order
When you are grateful you are less self-centered and are better able to discern what matters most. Gratitude can give you the resolve to focus on those things, even as you feel pressure from all aspects of your life.
This can mean spending time with a friend or family member even when work demands are relentless. It can mean helping a person in need even when you don’t feel like it. It can mean helping a colleague or staff member meet their goals even when you haven’t met yours. It sometimes means taking time for yourself so you can better serve others.
Why does all this matter?
Because people will follow a leader who is clearly aligned with their mission and who appreciates the work they do. They will work for a leader who is not about himself or herself, but who knows that their effort is as important as the leader’s. Gratitude helps you do that.
Questions for reflection:
What improvement in someone else’s life makes you grateful?
Whose effort has really made a difference in your life?
What really matters in your life? How are you grateful for this?