Thankful Leadership: Four Ideas to Demonstrate Thankfulness Daily

By: Jonathan Dapra
Nov 25, 2022

As we look toward the Thanksgiving holiday, I am often reminded of how the actions and spirit of being thankful can be powerful tools for leaders to grow their organizations and develop cultures of consequence. Being thankful is a core value—recognizing your associates and ensuring all know they bring value that you, as the company’s leader, are grateful to have. I have seen a surge in Thanksgiving week LinkedIn post, tweets, and company announcements talking about how thankful a leader and their team are. I find such feedback laudable. But, a kind reminder…great leaders are thankful every day, and they demonstrate this gratitude in diverse and distinct ways. Consider these four approaches to thankful leadership, and you will be well-positioned for long-term growth and success.

1. Recognize People’s Contributions 

Your associates show up and contribute to the growth and well-being of your company—make sure you tell them how grateful you are for their distinct contributions. Great leaders will use a combination of methods (some more formal, others deliberately individualized) to recognize exceptional performance. You may regularly acknowledge an employee of the month or an outstanding department member—and associates will value the recognition. But there are plenty of opportunities for leaders to point out excellence daily. Tell your people when they do something that just made the organization a better place, a more effective player in the market, or a better environment in which to get work done. Pull someone aside and say: “If I haven’t told you lately, I want you to know how much we all appreciate what you do here.” Be specific. Tell people what they do, why their approach is unique, and how they directly affect your company’s success.  

2. Demonstrate Respect and Transparency 

Be engaged and responsive throughout the day. Be aware of associates’ needs. This does not mean you need to spend your day monitoring the office like a schoolteacher or a nanny. Instead, it is demonstrating behavior that conveys your respect for every associate and the efforts they make. You are working to ensure you support them in every way possible—be it eyeing improved processes, recognizing (and helping speak to) obstacles associates may encounter on the job, or ensuring the work environment and rewards systems are engaging and appropriate. 

3. Develop Individuals 

Show your people you appreciate what they do and their potential to do great things. Be a leader who helps your associates see what they can do and develop skills and knowledge to advance them through the organization. Recognizing peoples’ potential and taking concrete steps to help them advance is one of the most significant ways to say thanks—you are saying: you are important, and I want you to grow with us. 

4. Build a Culture in which Everyone Thinks Like an Owner 

I often remind business leaders that although they may have built or are currently growing the company, the work is done by every associate. Make sure you recognize each employee’s inherent need to be part of something special. Treat your associates like your partners, like owners of the business. The more a leader builds such a culture of consequence, the greater the motivation of all to make your organization successful. The best leaders show their associates thanks by giving them insight, autonomy, and the ability to improve your company at every level. 

Leaders who commit to recognizing people, being engaged, developing associates, and creating a culture where all feel invested will recognize the impact of these people-decisions throughout their organization—and it will extend well beyond Thanksgiving Day. Use your people-oriented capabilities to be thankful daily. 

Jonathan Dapra is a co-founder of Alaric, and its Chief Innovation Officer. He is a leadership assessment and development practitioner with over 20 years’ experience as an executive, entrepreneur, trainer, and educator. He is the co-author of From 50 to 500.
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