Grateful leadership: using the power of acknowledgment to engage all your people and achieve superior results.

Author:Umlas, Judith W.
Position::EXPERT ADVICE - Column

Servant Leadership, which started in the 1960s and is still practiced by such corporate giants as Southwest Airlines, Marriott International, Starbucks and many others, made some people feel put off by the concept of having a leader serve his or her followers. But the bottom line results and employee engagement that was created eased their discomfort.

Similarly, the idea of you as leaders being grateful to your people may put you off a bit at first as well. But you will quickly see the benefits--to you, to your organization and to your people when you start tapping into the fountain of gratitude that exists in each of us, although it may be hidden in the beginning. So let's start by considering my definition of a Grateful Leader. A Grateful Leader is one who sees, recognizes and expresses appreciation for their employees' and other stakeholders' (customers, suppliers, the public, for example) contributions and for their passionate engagement, on an ongoing basis. Once these leaders allow themselves to feel and express their gratitude, the next step is to take action to acknowledge, support, and engage their people profoundly so that these outcomes can be achieved. These leaders really want to know their employees and other stakeholders as people.

If you need a bit of proof that this works, according to the article Motivating people: Getting beyond money in the McKinsey Quarterly, November 2009, respondents to a survey asking about what motivates people identified "three noncash motivator--praise from immediate managers, leadership attention (for example, one-on-one conversations), and a chance to lead projects or task forces--as no less or even more effective motivators than the three highest-rated financial incentives--cash bonuses, increased base pay, and stock or stock options ..."

So let's look at this kind of praise, or acknowledgment, which is truly the foundation of Grateful Leadership and of a culture of appreciation. But first let me also give you my definition of acknowledgment, since it could be different from what you may think it is. I see it as the heartfelt and authentic communication that lets a person know their value to their organization or to their team and the importance of the contribution they make.

Acknowledgment is significantly different from recognition, and this causes many people a lot of confusion. You may be thinking you are acknowledging someone when, in truth, you are simply recognizing them. There is a distinction...

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