I am a firm believer that gratitude cannot be overdone. However, I fear gratitude has lost its true value due to a watered-down perception of the true nature and benefits of the practice of gratitude. Perhaps gratitude is taken for granted because of societal memes and suggestions such as, “have an attitude of gratitude” or the commonplace action of making gratitude lists. Can real gratitude be captured in a list I write for myself anyway? Does this honor the power of the act of being grateful? These are the questions in my mind as I ponder how a servant leader can adopt this mindset.

I want to be clear: creating gratitude lists and journaling about all there is to be thankful for is good. This good habit forces our minds to look for things to be thankful for in our everyday life-a particularly powerful tool when things are not going so well. I’m not suggesting these actions be eliminated.


Definitions around gratitude are pretty clear and basic: the act of being grateful…shocker. Being grateful, however, goes deeper and relates to having a warm and deep appreciation. I love that phrase, “A warm and deep appreciation.” It makes me think of a warm blanket that is all encompassing that completely covers me. It’s the perfect temperature that warms to the bone. Gratitude has a depth and warmth to it that moves beyond the cursory “thanks” to a more profound expression of appreciation. 

Psychologists provide another way to define gratitude: a positive emotional response that we’ve perceived on giving or receiving a benefit from someone. (Kennon M. Sheldon 2011)(Edmonds and McCullough, 2004)

And yet one particular definition that caught my eye came from the dictionary and it reads, “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”

To return kindness…that seems a bit more active than making a gratitude list or saying “thanks,” doesn’t it? For the purposes of this chapter, think of gratitude as the overriding mindset related to being thankful by expressing deep, warm appreciation and to return kindness. With this in mind, you will notice I interchange all of these terms.


Moving beyond the lists and thankyou’s is not hard, but it does take a deeper understanding of the ways we can practice the mindset of gratitude. 

First, we must start with the belief that people matter and are worthy of being deeply and warmly appreciated. This depth is good for them, good for us, and good for our organizations. 

Second, we have to move past being for gratitude and being bold about it. This is a commitment to make gratitude a part of our daily life, both personally and professionally. 

Finally, we must promote this new way of thinking in our organizations by both modeling and operationalizing it into our cultures. There are a few ways this can be done both in thinking and doing. Those ways include, moving from manners to meaning; expressing gratitude equitably; and, overdoing appreciation. I go into each of this more in the book.


Many leaders want to know when enough is enough. How do we know how much is enough gratitude? My question is…enough for what? If we are showing gratitude to create a reaction or awareness in another person, it’s not gratitude, it’s manipulation. What we are really doing is wearing the trappings of gratitude in order to serve our own selfish need to be validated. That kind of expression is from a needy energy, not an energy of actually showing gratitude. I show gratitude whenever I feel it, regardless if the person responds in kind or not. It’s not about a response and you are never really finished because there’s always something to express gratitude for.

Comments are closed.