The Leader and Emotion: Gratitude

Emotions are often spontaneous and unplanned reactions to the circumstances of life. David seems to have experienced them all.

David also experienced gratitude, an emotion that can be chosen and cultivated by all leaders.  Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. 2Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. 3Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 4Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. 5For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations (Psalm 100:1-5).

This Psalm is filled with thanksgiving and praise. David is clearly filled with gratitude and invites all of us to join him in being grateful leaders.

Gratitude should be recognized. David identifies his gratitude and chooses to focus his attention on this emotion. David recognizes God’s goodness in His creation and His faithfulness that “continues through all generations.” David is filled with gratitude and calls everyone who listens to be grateful.

While there is always much for which we can be grateful, many leaders choose instead to focus on the struggles and obstacles of their journey. They may focus on the pain of betrayal or the emotion of fear. Or they focus on their ‘to do list’ which seems much longer than the ‘done list.’ So they choose frustration instead of thanksgiving. David chooses to come to God with gratitude. He recognizes that no matter what the circumstances, he can see things for which he is grateful.

Servant leaders learn to recognize the power of gratitude in their leadership and choose to focus on things for which they are thankful. They recognize that those who lead with gratitude are a joy to follow!

Gratitude should be revealed. Like all his emotions, David does not keep gratitude a secret from himself or others. He cries out, “Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.” David reveals his gratitude to anyone who will listen! He reveals the reasons he is grateful to the God who made him and the entire universe.

Leaders sometimes think of things for which they are grateful but fail to reveal their gratitude. But servant leaders serve those they lead by expressing gratitude openly. They may write it, say it, or sing it but they always find a way to reveal their gratitude to those around them. They tell their spouse how much they are blessed by their presence. They write a note of appreciation to someone on the team who has done a good job. They publically thank the person who serves even in menial tasks. They are grateful for the contributions of each of their team members and express their thanks openly.

Gratitude should be restrained. We have looked at many emotions that can hinder our leadership when they are not properly restrained. We are called to lead with emotion but not be led by emotions and servant leaders learn the proper balance. But it’s hard to imagine a leader being too grateful!

Perhaps some leaders focus so much on the positive that they are unable to address issues that need attention. Servant leaders do not allow gratitude to keep them from corrections that need to be made. But for more leaders, the danger is in leading without gratitude!

Servant leaders in this situation learn to cultivate and develop the emotion of gratitude. They refuse to allow their leadership to be defined by ingratitude no matter how difficult the challenges they are facing. Like David, they lead their emotions to a place of gratitude! And they serve those around them who are ungrateful with a gentle call to follow them to experience the emotion of gratitude.

Choose today to lead with an attitude of gratitude.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Find a blank piece of paper and list everything that comes to your mind for which you are grateful. Turn the list into a prayer of thanks to God. Then reflect on what this does to your soul and record your learnings here.
  • To whom should I express gratitude today? What is the best way to express my gratitude to this person or persons? (Verbally, in writing, publically or privately, etc.)
  • What steps is God inviting me to take to develop more deeply a grateful heart? (Be specific and then share your list with a trusted friend for accountability.)

Copyright, Global Disciples 2018.

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