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Gratitude: If you're a leader––you need it.

There are only two types of people in the world today: leaders––and those who refuse. Let’s start with that. I don’t care if you’re the janitor or the CEO, if you’re willing to provide an example for others––if you inspire, empower or guide others in any way, you are a leader.

Since you’re a leader––you need gratitude. This is not optional.

And it’s not fluff.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been impressed or inspired by any of those flowery script memes about the niceties of gratitude. Having the “attitude of gratitude” is not enough and just being thankful is not the end––it’s the beginning. Practicing gratitude is one of the most powerful and practical processes for success and achievement.

Gratitude is an inventory.

It’s simple. Without gratitude your focus is on what you don’t have.

A scarcity mindset produces envy, jealousy and resentment. Not useful qualities of a leader.

Gratitude is the act of paying attention to what you have. It’s about taking stock of the material, emotional and spiritual resources you have on hand––no matter how much or how little.

You can start with a simple “gratitude practice.” I learned this technique when most people would have seen me as flat broke––and broken.

I discovered my gratitude practice when I first quit drugs. I readily admit I was feeling pretty sorry for myself and didn’t really think I had much to be thankful for. I was living in a dilapidated trailer decorated in duct tape and cardboard. I had no money. I was working a crappy job and my transportation was an un-inspectable, un-insurable VW bug.

But somehow I realized as bad as it was, I had wheels. I had a roof over my head. I had enough to eat. And most of all––I had survived three years of drug abuse.

I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember one particular spring day. It was one of those days we really appreciate in the northeast after a long winter. It starts as a cold morning when the suddenly hot sun forces you out of your sweatshirt. Then without warning you notice the sounds of the first spring birds.

I spent the day with my closest friend. I don’t remember that we did anything too special––I think we went for a short hike.

What’s important is that after he dropped me off, I do remember an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for this friend. He was the most important person in helping me escape my drug episode.

I also remember suddenly feeling thankful for my crappy trailer and ratty old car. At least I was inside and had wheels.

Later that day I stopped in to the little convenience store next to my trailer. The owner was my landlady––a wonderful person who had helped me in amazing ways. When I was broke, she let me slide on rent. When I was hungry, she always seemed to have some leftovers she was glad to have me take. Funny how she had always just managed to cook something she was going to throw out.

Memory compresses time. I know this happened over a period of months, but now it feels to me like it happened in just days. I started having more moments of spontaneous gratitude.

I started what is now a lifelong practice. It’s simple. It’s almost stupid––but it works.

I just started saying “thank you” for whatever I had. I actually said it out loud––when I knew there was nobody to hear me! At the time I thought it was a pretty ridiculous thing to do. I also knew it worked.

What I discovered was that every time I said “thank you,” it caused me to pay attention and appreciate what I had and at least for the moment, it took my mind off what I was lacking.

Everything we’re going to accomplish, everything we’re going to become, starts with whatever we have right here and right now––no matter how much or how little. Gratitude is the act of taking stock of what we have.

Earlier I divided our “resources” into three categories: material, emotional and spiritual…

Material is simple. How much money do you have? What things do you own? What tangible resources do you have at your disposal? You should also consider your talents and abilities––anything you can make or do that provides value and can be traded in the world.

Emotional resources are still tangible––you can measure them. You can think about mentors, teachers, friends and family. Include their advice, guidance, encouragement and support. Who do you love? Who loves you?

Spiritual is where you appreciate the intangible. I’m not talking about spirituality in a religious sense, although many people would rightfully include “faith” in this area. Think also about traits that are difficult or impossible to measure like courage or resilience. Most of all, think about vision, purpose and meaning. What is it that connects you to a purpose larger than your self? What connects you to the world and other human beings above and beyond daily transactions?

Leaders need to pay particular attention to three specific areas––and take the time to appreciate these:

  • Respect

  • Trust

  • Loyalty…

If you do enjoy a position of authority––if others report to you or I’d rather say, you serve others as a leader, then Respect, Trust and Loyalty are your most valuable assets.

  • Be grateful for the smallest expression of Respect offered.

  • Be grateful that people are willing to place their Trust in you and your leadership.

  • Be grateful that people extend their Loyalty and are willing to stand with you––especially when the going gets tough.

And put faces on these things! Think about the specific people who share their Respect, Trust and Loyalty with you.

Too many leaders lose appreciation for these powerful assets. It’s easy to overlook these things, especially when you’re busy or in the middle of the chaos.

But before you toss these things on the soft pile, think about this: What can you possibly accomplish without the Respect, Trust and Loyalty of the people you serve?

How much more can you accomplish when you earn this Respect, Trust and Loyalty?

So how do you do it? How do you conduct this “inventory” of gratitude?

Keep this simple. And being Thanksgiving, this is the perfect week for it.

Put aside an hour or so. Don’t tell me you’re too busy.

Sit with an old fashioned pen and paper and think about what you have. Write it down.

When you’re done, just say “Thank You.”

I can tell you from experience…

It works.


THANK YOU to everyone who made 2019 the most successful year ever for THE SENSEI LEADER MOVEMENT!

We travelled more miles, spoke to more and bigger audiences and shared our message with more people than ever before.

I am personally very grateful for everyone who appreciates the importance of putting the human back in leadership and especially for you––

The leaders who Inspire, Empower and Guide others to their very best. Leaders who put people first. Leaders who embody the spirit and practice of everything we call THE SENSEI LEADER…


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