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Friday, September 24, 2021
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Leading with Character: Gratitude

I’ve been meaning for some time to write a blog on being grateful, because we need more of that attitude in our world today. I pondered where to take this discussion, and decided to start with a question that has been on my mind. Has anyone else noticed that sometimes the more people have, or are given, the more they expect and the less grateful they become?

In the “employee’s market” we’re experiencing as we emerge from the COVID pandemic, employers find themselves competing for workers, many of whom have new expectations of the workplace. How can a leader motivate people to seek hard, demanding jobs that require dedication and even sacrifice?

A Culture of Gratitude

I believe the answer lies in creating a culture of gratitude in the workplace. In his inaugural address in 1961, President John F. Kennedy expressed gratitude for our cherished freedoms, and challenged Americans to do their part to make our great nation an even better place. His immortal words served as a beacon of inspiration: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

President Kennedy appealed, in part, to Americans’ sense of pride in our nation. Sixty years later, we have so much to be thankful for, yet it seems the tables have turned. People have come to ask more and more of their employers, their organizations, and our government. Why? Maybe because amidst the turmoil of the COVID pandemic, they don’t feel like they have reason to be grateful.

President Kennedy’s gravesite is marked by an eternal flame. I believe leaders of character can reignite that flame of selfless service he so poignantly called for by creating a culture of gratitude in the workplace. But the passive state of being grateful is not enough. Now is the time for leaders at all levels to stand up, as did President Kennedy, and create a wave of gratitude that manifests itself in action by inspiring people to look for the good and the positive around them.

Keep a Gratitude Journal

Being grateful takes work! Years ago, I attended a wellness retreat and listened to a motivational speaker who encouraged us to start a gratitude journal. He recommended making time each day to write down several things to be grateful for. I put that advice into practice and it changed my outlook on life. I made it a point to never repeat myself, so I had to search for new forms of goodness and beauty to be grateful for each day. By filling myself with gratefulness, there was less room for selfishness. What a difference that made in my life and the lives of those around me!

The Power of Gratitude

Some leaders might be wondering, why should I care if my employees are grateful? Why is their state of mind my responsibility? The answer is that gratefulness creates inner peace that extends to compassion, harmony, and positivity in the workplace, all of which leads to more fulfilled, productive employees.

In an “employee’s market,” where companies are competing for the best people, a culture of gratitude in an asset. It can be the secret ingredient that inspires people to feel proud of their organization and motivated toward selfless service.

Look in the mirror. Do your employees feel inspired to go the extra mile to execute your mission and serve your customers?

Please join me again next week for more on Leading with Character.

Sandra L. Stosz
Vice Admiral Sandra L. Stosz retired from the U.S. Coast Guard in May of 2018. Stosz previously assumed the duties of Deputy Commandant for Mission Support Deputy Commandant for Mission Support, Vice Admiral Stosz lead the 17,000-person organization that delivers the systems and people that enable the U.S. Coast Guard to efficiently and effectively perform its operational missions. Vice Admiral Stosz graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1982 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Government. She was awarded a Master of Business Administration degree from Northwestern University’s J. L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management in 1994. In 2000, she completed an executive fellowship in national security through the MIT Seminar XXI program, and she earned a Master of National Security Strategy from the National War College in 2004. In 2009, she attended the Navy’s Executive Business Course at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler business school. Vice Admiral Stosz’s personal awards include the Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal, three Legion of Merit Medals, four Meritorious Service Medals, two Coast Guard Commendation Medals, and two Coast Guard Achievement Medals.

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