We are all nearing the end of what has been a very difficult year. As the final days of that year approach, it seems appropriate to take just a few moments to talk about one of the most important, most inexhaustible traits of the accountable leader: gratitude.
November and December, the “holiday months,” are typically the time when people go out of their way to think about what they are grateful for, and to express thankfulness for the people and events that have made a positive difference in their lives. What I have noticed, though, is that gratitude is a defining characteristic of the accountable leader all year long. It is a central component of their thinking, their communication, and their actions, 365 days a year. They do not wait for some special occasion to express gratitude for all the good things that have happened to them, and all the important people in their world. They do that every day.
The great Shawnee leader Tecumseh, who headed the most important confederation of Native American tribes in the early nineteenth century, had this to say on the subject of gratitude: “When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.” Those powerful words perfectly capture the message it feels most important to live by, and share with others, as 2020 draws to a close.
Recently, I made a mental list of the things I was most grateful for this year. What came to mind over and over again for me were all the relationships with people who had had a positive impact on me in 2020. Those relationships made it possible for me to emerge from this year with my commitments clear, my values strengthened, and my focus on building a more accountable world sharper than it was before. Thinking closely about my relationships with certain people put me in a state of deep gratitude, a state that made it easier for me to not only determine what steps I needed to take next in my business, but also helped me to recognize some new opportunities to invest in other people. Those relationships put me in a giving frame of mind.
So as this year closes, my challenge to you is to live Tecumseh’s wise teaching. How? By giving thanks for all of that which has sustained you, and for all the joy you have been able to experience in your most important relationships. Do that every day. You can make this a reality by finding someone to thank once a day for something they’ve added to your life, by meaning every word, and by finding new ways to invest in a relationship that really matters to you. Use your gratitude for that relationship to make it a deeper, richer, and more meaningful experience for both parties.
Starting today, I challenge you to make gratitude a daily choice in your life. Begin with the gratitude you feel for the most important relationships, and let that gratitude inspire you to look for ways to improve and deepen all of your relationships. This simple choice is, I believe, one of the fastest and most reliable pathways to accountable leadership. But we need to remember that it’s a 365-days-a-year process.