The Importance of Leading with Gratitude, with Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

After surveying more than one million employees from a wide range of organizations, Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton have found that leading with gratitude is the easiest, fastest, least expensive way for managers to boost both performance and engagement in employees.

Unfortunately, it is also one of the most misunderstood and misapplied skills in business today.

During their research, Gostick and Elton heard over and over that people feel not only underappreciated at work, but sometimes even under attack. The authors call this the “gratitude gap.” In their latest book, Leading with Gratitude, they dispel common myths about leaders expressing gratitude and offer eight simple ways to show employees they are valued.

The myths Gostick and Elton identify may sound familiar:

  • Fear is the best motivator.
  • People want too much praise these days.
  • There just isn’t enough time!
  • It’s all about money.

Leading with Gratitude is filled with compelling stories featuring respected leaders such as Alan Mullaly of Ford Motor Company and retired American Express chairman Ken Chenault. The stories illustrate that these myths are simply excuses that can keep managers from building an honorable work environment by expressing their appreciation for a job well done.

The authors explain that gratitude isn’t about showering employees with thank-yous and high fives. They offer eight practical examples that demonstrate how leaders can first gain clarity about how people contribute and then show gratitude in specific ways that will be meaningful to individuals.

Practicing the act of gratitude can be as simple as letting people know their suggestions are valued by soliciting their ideas and acting on them. Another way is by assuming positive intent, especially when errors happen. Instead of getting upset or blaming someone for making a mistake, assume the person was doing their best and then use the situation to learn what you could be doing differently as a leader.

One of the most useful tips is to walk in your employees’ shoes. Getting a better understanding of what it takes for people to do their jobs will uncover ways you can collaborate to solve problems, improve processes, and enhance the customer experience as you build relationships by showing empathy. The best way to start is to look for small wins that will lead to bigger wins.

Perhaps my favorite suggestion in the book is to practice gratitude at home. Gostick and Elton remind readers not to get caught in the trap of putting our best face on at work and leaving it there when we go home. Showing appreciation and empathy for loved ones should be a common practice—and I think a gentle reminder is a good thing.

So remember to express gratitude often, tailor it to the individual, and ensure it reinforces corporate values. And don’t forget to praise your peers as well. Leading with gratitude creates engaged, high performing employees, a stronger organization, and better results.

To hear host Chad Gordon interview Adrian Gostick, listen to the LeaderChat podcast and subscribe today. Order your copy of Leading with Gratitude on

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