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Leading with Character: Thanksgiving

Why not commit to going back to work after the holiday with a spirit of thankfulness that your people notice?

It’s the Wednesday before Thanksgiving day and my inbox and social media accounts are brimming over with inspirational messages. Everyone is talking about thankfulness and gratitude. That’s great. I love being positive. But, I secretly wonder, “Why am I kinda cynical about all this hoopla?”

Sincere or Shallow?

Perhaps it’s because I feel like we’ve become a society that does a superb job paying lip-service to significant days of observation such as Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and all the others. We sincerely rejoice and celebrate, or somberly observe, as the occasion demands. But, it’s over almost as soon as it started. We’ve done our duty. On Thanksgiving, for instance, we’ve been dutifully thankful. We’ve written our blog, posted our newsletter, expressed our sentiments on our social media platforms. We’ve had our family dinners. But in our hearts and minds we’re already working on what’s next. How long will our feelings, be they real or contrived, of thankfulness last?

Purposefully Thankful

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone chose to celebrate Thanksgiving by being thankful every day of the year? If we made it our purpose to live our lives being grateful for what we have 365 days of the year instead of complaining about what we don’t have, wouldn’t our society be a better place? Same for Veterans Day and Memorial Day – why not honor and remember our veterans every day? Likewise, for days of observation such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Women’s Equality Day, and many others – why don’t we make it a point to respect and understand those who are different from us every day of the year, not just on the occasion of an annual observance?

Gratitude Journal

(Almost) every night I make an entry in my gratitude journal. It’s a discipline that leads me to make time each day to notice something new to be thankful for. If you’re continually focusing on thankfulness, you’ll find there’s little room left for negative thoughts to intrude. Try your hand at a gratitude journal this holiday season. You might find it makes a real difference in your outlook and attitude.

Attention All Leaders!

This Thanksgiving week, why not commit to going back to work after the holiday with a spirit of thankfulness that your people notice? Make it a point to thank someone every day. Look for the little things, not necessarily the big things. Find those day-to-day small successes that we too often fail to celebrate. That’s what leading with character is all about.

Look in the mirror. As a leader, are you setting the example every day by coming to work with an attitude of thankfulness?

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

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Sandra L. Stosz
Vice Admiral Stosz, a Homeland Security Today editorial board member, started out in the U.S. Coast Guard as an ensign serving on polar icebreakers, conducting national security missions from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Her 40-year career is filled with leadership lessons gleaned while breaking ice and breaking glass as the first woman to command an icebreaker on the Great Lakes and to lead a U.S. armed forces service academy. She finished her career as the first woman assigned as Deputy Commandant for Mission Support, directing one of the Coast Guard’s largest enterprises. She has lectured widely on leadership, and has been featured on CSPAN and other media outlets. In 2012, Newsweek’s “The Daily Beast” named Vice Admiral Stosz to their list of 150 Women who Shake the World. Proceeds from “Breaking Ice and Breaking Glass: Leading in Uncharted Waters” will be donated to the US Coast Guard Academy James M. Loy Institute for Leadership.

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