The Thankful Leader – simple ways to practice gratitude

A few days ago I was flying home from a business trip in Wellington, when I found myself reflecting on my professional journey over the last year.

I don’t know whether it was the fact that Thanksgiving had just taken place in the US, or the realisation that 2012 is drawing to a close at the speed of light, which prompted my mind to wander that day.

I thought about the organisations who have opened their doors to me throughout 2012, and the inspirational executives I have coached within them.

I recognised how much I have learned from them, how fortunate I am to have been a part of their experiences, challenges, and wins, and how I appreciate the opportunity to be doing a job I truly love.

Grateful - The Leader's Digest

Whatever the reasons for my ‘epiphanous daydream’, the value of gratitude became alarmingly clear to me.

The word gratitude comes from the Latin word ‘grace’.

Countless research studies have found there is a strong link between practicing gratitude and increased happiness, as well as showing that increasing gratitude about good things in our past intensifies positive memories.

I believe that we can always take the time to express our thanks, to others and for what we have in life.

As a leader, now may be a great time to thank your team for their efforts this year (this is about celebrating their efforts, regardless of the outcomes).

If you are one of many people who are currently tired and worn out by the years’ demands and are feeling like you can only just make it through to Christmas, the following two short and simple gratitude exercises may help you to ‘fill up your tank’ enough to make it through to your break.

Exercise One

Is there someone who has been important in your life, but whom you have never properly thanked?

If there is, take the opportunity to show your gratitude to them by thanking them, today. Call them, write them a note or better yet, tell them face to face how much you appreciate what they have done and the positive impact they have made in your life.

My bet is that it will feel as good to you to say it, as it does for them to hear it.

Express your gratitude - The Leader's Digest

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” –
William Arthur Ward

Exercise Two

Set aside three minutes each night for the next two weeks, to think back over the previous 24 hours and write down five things in your life you are grateful for.

The book Authentic Happiness, by Dr Martin Seligman (which I can highly recommend) has a Life Satisfaction and General Happiness Scale, which you could fill out before and after this exercise and compare your scores.

As the Greek sage and philosopher Epictetus put it,

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”

– Suzi


  1. […] more inspiration on the topic, click here to read a blog I wrote about simple ways to practice […]

  2. Bindy on December 4, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    When we know it feels so good to receive, why can we be so hesitant to give? Thanks for the reminder Suzi.

  3. Brad insull on November 30, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    Like it Suzi, nice little reminder at this crazy time of year when some slip into a self obsessive frame of mind, but fortunately, many move in the opposite direction and remember what Xmas is all about…

    • The Leader's Digest on December 4, 2012 at 4:26 am

      Thanks Brad, great to hear from you and thanks for the feedback. Sometimes all we need is a gentle reminder to help keep us on track with what we really want. Cheers, Suzi.

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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