Practicing Gratitude: The Leadership Quality We Need in Today’s Fast-Paced Industry


Consider the fast-paced world we live in. We have constant access to new information using a screen that fits in the palm of our hand. Communication has never been so easy. Industries are continuously changing. Work-home balance can easily become a blur. Distractions are at an all-time high. Faster has become synonymous with better. We feel like we have two options, move fast or fall behind. 

Here’s the problem: employees are experiencing burn out at an increasing rate. Research reveals that as much as 79% of today’s workforce experiences some level of burn out. 

What does this mean and what can we do about it?

“In today’s environment, there is a truly great craving for being appreciated.”

Enter gratitude, a practice deemed one of the latest game-changers in leadership. Even simple expressions of gratitude have the power to generate a boost in morale around the office. 

When we practice gratitude, as explained by scientific expert Robert Emmons, we are recognizing the goodness present in our lives and the external source it comes from. We are taking a step back to acknowledge and appreciate others. Emmons classifies gratitude as a “relationship-strengthening emotion.” Keeping that in mind, leaders who practice gratitude are inherently promoting connection and stimulating growth among their team, cultivating an environment where people want to be. 

People want leaders they connect with and feel valued by.

They want to be heard. They want to be part of the bigger picture, not just checking off a to-do list. They want leaders who are invested in their growth both personally and professionally. 

“In today’s environment, there is a truly great craving for being appreciated,” agrees Malia Sperling.

Meeting these needs requires a shift in our mindset to fully grasp the benefits gratitude has the quality and scope of our leadership. Sperling has discovered firsthand the power of gratitude when it comes to leading large teams of people. She has found that gratitude has the power to “help us as leaders really understand the importance of being present with people.” It’s about “being in the moment, being a great listener and understanding the value of what people want,” she adds.

Leadership cannot be approached as a one-way street.

“There is no room for ego in leadership,” points out Nikki West, CEO at NYPD Pizza. And she’s right. We need to be open to learning every day from everyone, looking for opportunities to listen and learn in order to build mutual respect across all levels of a team. 

At NYPD Pizza, leadership makes sure their team members feel connection, respect, value, impact and purpose. The result? Employees who want to be there. In an industry where the average turnover rate is as high as 150 percent, NYPD Pizza has an impressive retention rate of around 50 percent. It’s no wonder why West urges other leaders to embed such values into the company culture. She has witnessed firsthand how authentic gratitude leads to the retention of quality employees who want to promote the brand and move it’s mission forward. 

“There is no room for ego in leadership.”

Despite the desire and need to increase our digital presence to keep up with the modern world, we can’t ignore the power of people.

Leaders have a responsibility to “pour into our people,” Sperling reminds us. At the end of the day, if we work to foster a culture where our employees feel valued and appreciated, we will be able to strengthen our relationships with our employees while strengthening their relationship with the brand. As long as we continue to promote this positive and supportive culture among our employees, our brands will continue to strengthen, grow and succeed. 

It can be hard. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day distractions and responsibilities of any leadership role. We get stressed. We can be overwhelmed. When we’re under tight deadlines, it might seem reasonable to place gratitude at the bottom of our list of priorities and forget to thank someone for doing what they were hired to do in the first place. 

But here’s the thing: we can’t. It’s that important. Think back to grade school lessons of the golden rule; treat others the way you want to be treated. We all want to feel respect, value and connection. It’s what makes us human. We have found ourselves in a role where we have the power to make a difference by genuinely and authentically practicing gratitude. 

There’s power in our sincerity. By celebrating others for doing something right or taking time to check in with them, we build stronger and more meaningful relationships. We promote a positive culture. We pave a path for others to follow our actions. Our gratitude creates ripples throughout the organization. It all starts with us making others know they are valued members of the team rather than another cog in the wheel. 

Like any other skill, gratitude is something that takes time and effort to develop and implement effectively. We all know there is nothing worse than disingenuous leadership. The good news, however, is that with consistent and intentional practice, we will strengthen our ability to lead with gratitude.

If our priority as leaders is to help our team, the benefits of our gratitude speak for themselves.

Gratitude has the power to transform the workplace. By engaging in expressions of gratitude, we open the door for emotional intelligence to grow. We inspire connection and collaboration. We welcome authenticity. 

By acknowledging employees and thanking them for their work, we are adding to their sense of value and increasing productivity. And we can’t just focus on the big accomplishments either. It is just as important to recognize the small victories of our team. Consider celebrating the moments outside of the workplace too. Did someone get married? Buy a house? Have a baby? A genuine acknowledgment of life’s milestones goes a long way in making a team member feel valued and connected. 

The benefits go beyond feeling valued. By implementing gratitude into our leadership approach, and consequently workplace culture, we are setting our team up for better well-being, both physically and mentally. Not only will we be looking at a more resilient team, but research reveals a correlation between workplace gratitude and job satisfaction.

And we’re not just benefiting our team either.

Practicing gratitude allows us to celebrate the present. It helps promote happiness while restricting more negative emotions. We better manage stress, increasing our resilience. We open the door for a boost in self-worth and self-trust as we recognize our own achievements. Our gratitude and authenticity will thrive off of one another, increasing our ability to effectively lead others. 

There’s a reason why successful innovators and change-makers like Richard Branson and Oprah Winfrey swear by the power of regularly practicing gratitude in their personal and professional lives. It works. It makes a difference. It matters.

Implementing gratitude in the workplace starts at the top; it starts with us. We will be stronger leaders because of it. The best part? Despite the fast-paced world we live in, practicing gratitude will allow us to ‘stop and smell the roses’ as we become increasingly present at work, at home and in life in general.

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