Gratitude Revolution: Unleashing Leadership Influence in a Rapidly Changing World

Gratitude Revolution: Unleashing Leadership Influence in a Rapidly Changing World

Some leadership strategy gurus proclaim that it’s a waste of time to coach a grateful mindset – In such a rapidly changing world, why be frivolous?

I’ll be the first to admit that there’s a lot to grumble about. Plus, it seems like a national sport to criticize, condemn, and complain!

Pressed for time?  Listen to an Audio Recording of the Article.             

I find that leaders often discount the powerful impact that coaching gratitude can have on their leadership influence. Yes, I believe that a new level of gratitude unlocks a new level of leadership influence for you. Gratitude enables you to be successful with your key leadership responsibilities (as outlined in The Art of Virtue-Based Transformational Leadership):

  • Casting vision
  • Formulating strategy
  • Aligning resources, and
  • Motivating.

I resonate with North Dakota’s Gov. Doug Burgum’s view of gratitude. In an article on the Emerging Prairie website, he says… “I came to understand that…while happiness is an emotion that is a result of something, gratitude is a choice. You can choose to be grateful. You can build it into your routine, your organizations, and your companies. In the midst of chaos and adversity, you can always be grateful. And that’s an amazing thing.”

Gov. Burgum hits the nail on the head with this leadership strategy. We are facing a revolution on all fronts in this Era of Exponential Progress and Digital Disruption.

Maybe it’s time for a Gratitude Revolution. Gratitude is not a time-wasting strategy; it’s a transformative leadership strategy.

In Burgum’s first State of the State speech, he spotlights the unstoppable forces higher education faces: cultural, technological, demographic, and economic. These forces continue to drive disruption in all market sectors, including your organization.

For example, the changes AI is introducing are as dramatic as when the printing press arrived. The Gutenberg press shook everything. It launched a new Epoch, changing almost everything. Now, we’re wondering about how Generative AI, like ChatGPT, will shake our world.  Is this the time for another Epoch? Historians say that we’re overdue.

Next-Gen Leaders are Hurting and Need Our Guidance

Statistics and research reveal that our emerging leaders need our guidance. Here are some data points to consider:

  • With the rapid increase of digitization, 22% of Americans are concerned they will lose their job to a robot. Read the article HERE.
  • RightNow Media @ Work survey indicates that 26% of U.S. employees dread going to work due to toxic cultures.
  • Inflation is creating stress for every American, regardless of age. 61% of U.S. adults in April 2023 say recent price increases have caused financial hardship for their household. This is up from 55% in November 2022 and the highest since Gallup’s first reading on the measure in November 2021. 15%  say price increases have caused severe financial hardship. According to Gov. Burgum, inflation was the most talked about issue on the campaign trail. Many Americans are not only concerned but are fearful.

Here’s what we’re seeing with Next Gen Leaders:

  • George Barna reports that 54% of young adults admit to “often feeling anxious, depressed, or unsafe.” New Insights into the Generation of Growing Influence: Millennials in America.
  • Loneliness is rampant. In a stunning CNN Business Op-ed, entitled  AI girlfriends imperil generation of young men,” PEW found that of Americans aged 18-29, 61% of males report being lonely. (Professor Liberty Vittert, Professor of Data Science, Washington University in St. Louis)
  • In a university student survey, this is how students responded to the statement, “I have felt increased stress about..”
    • 71% said a loss of social connections and social isolation
    • 69% anxiety or depression
    • 61% physical health for me or a family member (61%).

Statistics and research reveal that our emerging leaders need our guidance.

Yes, unstoppable forces are driving disruption everywhere – economically, technologically, demographically, culturally….and personally. Leaders of all generations, especially our Next-Gen leaders are reeling from these changes.

The result? A constant focus on problems, versus solutions…

  • F – Freezes our ability to cast a hopeful vision for the future;
  • E – Escalates burnout so that innovation withers and strategies fail;
  • A – Amplifies anxiety and depression, so that alignment stalls; and,
  • R – Restricts connection with others, so motivation collapses.

My F.E.A.R. acronym is an example of the toxic results that you can expect in the Grumble Culture. Employees are disengaged and lack problem-solving resolve.

Fear kills, steals, and destroys (John 10:10). Fear negatively impact our entire being, including our:

  • can-do mindset,
  • confidence, and
  • connection with others.

I discuss the negative impact of fear in my recent Courageous Leadership Series. You can read it HERE. 

As the challenges escalate, it seems difficult to stay focused on all that is good.

Yet, that might be the antidote. Scripture encourages us: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

This is where coaching Gratitude becomes a transformative leadership strategy tool.

The Brain Science Behind Gratitude as a Leadership Strategy

As mentioned, some leaders think it’s a waste of time to talk about gratitude as a leadership strategy. Yet, an entire field of Positive Psychology disagrees. Abundant scientific research studies confirm a link between gratitude and improved performance – that’s why I’m calling for a Gratitude Revolution.

A Psychology Today article discusses the scientific benefits of a grateful mindset. Here are 3 key takeaways:

1. Increased mental strength. Gratitude contributes
to resilience. Being thankful for your current bounty fosters grit and
determination. Even during the worst times. (A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology).

Gratitude Tip: During tumultuous times, it takes grit to be grateful. A Can-Do approach is a key driver for leadership success.

2. Improved confidence. Gratitude reduces your desire to compare yourself to others. Poor self-esteem often stems from resenting leaders who appear to be more successful. Grateful people appreciate their own strengths. Plus, they value the strengths of other leaders as well.

Gratitude Tip: Showing gratitude for strengths builds confidence. We can acknowledge our own talents and gifts, as well as what others bring to the table.

3. Stronger relationships. Thanking and showing appreciation for your colleagues builds connection and strengthens community. This can be as simple as thanking a colleague for helping with a project or sending a thank-you note.

Gratitude Tip: Acknowledging other people’s contributions leads to connection and community. You build a resilient culture that survives disruption.

Considering these scientific facts, I’m reminded of Proverbs 18: 21 – “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…”

How might you use gratitude in coaching and mentoring?

The Brain Science and Quaking Aspen Trees

I’m a fan of Caroline Leaf, a cognitive neuroscientist and author. In Millennials Matter I refer to Leaf in a number of places. She uses the metaphor of a “brain tree” to describe the beneficial effects of a grateful mindset. I’m grateful to learn that  I’m not the only one inspired by trees!

My fascination with trees goes back to my childhood, growing up on a cattle ranch in North Dakota. I’m captivated by the way different trees adapt to their surroundings. This ability to adapt ensures they survive harsh conditions (especially those in North Dakota, when it’s -60 wind chill!). This capacity fuels their ability to grow and flourish.

Ten years ago, my husband, Gordon, and I moved from Minnesota to North Dakota. Our priority is finding the perfect spot to build our new home. For me, that perfect spot means enjoying the vistas of the wide, open prairies. AND, I want our home to be near trees, to remind me of my grandchildren who are in Minnesota.

Eventually, we find it! We watch cattle grazing and the moose crossing the salt fields from the front porch. From the back porch, we enjoy the beauty of the Quaking Aspen, always watchful to prowling mountain lions (where is it hiding!) and bald eagles soaring high.

Danita ByeLeaf’s work inspired me to learn more about the Quaking Aspen Grove in my own backyard.  I’m working on an article, Quaking Aspen Leadership Lessons. I  will highlight some leadership insights I gained by studying these magnificent trees.

You may want to read this article as well: Rooted in Gratitude: Aspen-Inspired Leadership Strategy for Success.

Leaf is a leader in the field of Positive Psychology. She says that our thoughts actually affect the physical structure of our brain. This in turn shifts how our brain functions. She compares a grateful mindset to a tree sprouting new branches. Just as a tree can grow and develop new branches, our brain can do the same. This phenomenon is called Neuroplasticity.

In a blog on her website, Leaf suggests that gratitude changes the brain and the body for the better. This is what she says: “Research on the effect gratitude has on our biology shows how being thankful increases our longevity, our ability to use our imagination, and our ability to problem-solve. What you are thinking now is creating your future life. You create your life with your thoughts. Because you are always thinking, you are always creating. What you think about the most or focus on the most is what will appear in your life.” ~ Caroline Leaf

This is amazing news! Gratitude –

  • Increases our longevity,
  • Improves our ability to use our imagination, and
  • Expands our ability to solve problems.

Aren’t these some of the capacities that we want to build in those around us?

Based on Brain Science, we will discuss 3 Gratitude Mindsets to strengthen emerging leaders in these three areas:

1.) Grow a Can-Do Mindset
Leaders often get sucked into fear-based, finger-pointing behavior. Why?

Modern leadership practices often over-emphasize empathy. The result?

You struggle to get your teams unstuck from a Grumble Culture. The constant criticizing, condemning, and complaining leads to a Closed-Door mindset. As a friend told me recently, “You can’t drive forward fixated on the rear-view mirror.” This negative mindset is what keeps us stuck, accepting the status quo. There’s a lack of openness to new opportunities and challenges. Problem-solving is practically zero!

In contrast, strategic leaders use gratitude to grow a Can-Do Mindset. They grow grit, determination, and resilience in themselves and in those they lead. They empower their teams to find creative solutions to tackle Digital Disruption and Exponential Growth.

2.) Cultivate a Confidence Mindset 
Many Next-Gen leaders believe they should be promoted and get ahead at the snap of their fingers. They often base their value, worth, and identity on fleeting factors, i.e. what they produce or achieve. When their progress doesn’t match their dreams NOW, they lose confidence.

When life happens too slow, they fall into the trappings of the Comparison Culture. They end up discouraged. The days, months, and years can seem gray and non-productive. It can feel like a winter season in their leadership journey.

One of my favorite leadership gurus is Dr. Robert Clinton, author of Making of a Leader. He describes these difficult times as Negative Preparation. He suggests that during our winter seasons groundwork for leadership growth is happening. Your emerging leaders need this foundation to flourish in their spring season. By nurturing gratitude, you coach your Next-Gen leader to leverage their winter. It’s a time of preparation. Learn how to coach them to cultivate a Confidence Mindset.

3.) Nurture a Connection Mindset
Humans have an innate need to belong, to be in community. Yet, three common behaviors create isolation in many organizations. These destructive practices fuel the Red Zone Cut-Off Culture:
1.) Gossiping. A lethal culture killer that robs leaders of their dignity and leadership impact.
2.) Expressive Individualism. A worldview that prioritizes the individual’s needs, rights, and views to the extreme.
3.) Disrespect. Not valuing the gifts, talents, and strengths of others.

Strategic leaders use gratitude to create a Blue Zone Connection Culture. When you are grateful, you create a strong and resilient culture. Everyone flourishes. (NOTE: I’ll talk about Blue Zone Connection in the 4 article in this series.)

Join the Gratitude Revolution Unlock your Leadership Influence.

Gratitude is not a wasteful leadership strategy in today’s rapidly shifting world. In fact, it’s a powerful coaching and mentoring tool. Gratitude enables you to be successful with your key leadership responsibilities (The Art of Virtue-Based Transformational Leadership):

  • Casting vision
  • Formulating strategy
  • Aligning resources, and
  • Motivating.

I’m inspired by Gov. Doug Burgum’s views of gratitude. Many years ago, he decided that whenever he gives a talk, he will start with gratitude. He also says, “We need to be warriors against the status quo.” The status quo is often grumbling. Being grateful is how we are a warrior against the status quo.

Stay tuned for the upcoming articles in the Gratitude Series, and let’s follow Gov. Burgum’s example. Start sowing seeds of gratitude.

Start growing your Gratitude Brain Tree. Start the Gratitude Revolution. Inspire Your Next-Gen leaders to do the same. It’s the antidote needed to fight the attacks of fear and uncertainty.

Mindsets matter. And, your leadership matters, NOW more than ever.

Stay tuned for the next article in this series. We will discover how to use gratitude to grow a Can-Do Mindset in your Next-Gen Leader.

Gratitude Leadership Influence Lesson: Use gratitude as your coaching tool to fight the toxic impact of the Grumble Culture.

Gratitude Leadership Influence Question: What might you do to grow your leadership influence with gratitude?

Copyright 2024, Danita Bye. All rights reserved.

Want to read the Gratitude Revolution Series from the beginning? Here is a list of the articles so far:

Gratitude Revolution: Unleashing Leadership Influence in a Rapidly Changing World (Introduction to the Gratitude Series)

The Gratitude Revolution – Transforming Leadership Strategy with a Can-Do Mindset

Blue Zone Leadership: Expanding Leadership Influence with Gratitude

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