Five Ways Leaders Can Show Gratitude

It’s Thanksgiving again: a time each year where we’re reminded to stop and express gratitude for the good, the positive, and the uplifting blessings we enjoy in our lives. As it turns out, that thankfulness has incredible benefits for our health.


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Robert Emmons, a leading scientific expert on gratitude, has shown through research that people who demonstrate consistent gratitude experience:

  • Stronger immune systems
  • Better health and wellness
  • Lower blood pressure
  • More joy and happiness
  • Longer and better sleep
  • Greater levels of forgiveness
  • Higher levels of optimism
  • Less loneliness and isolation.

The social benefits are significant because, after all, gratitude is a social emotion. Emmons believes it’s a relationship-strengthening action because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by others. It affirms the good we have received, and it directs our emotions toward the source, whoever or whatever that may be. We appreciate the positive traits in ourselves and recognize them in others.

Why is This Important?

For leaders, gratitude can be powerful—particularly when they recognize the role team members have played in their success. When they do this, everyone wins.

So, think for a moment: Are you thankful for the people who serve under your care? If so, how often do you tell them? And just how do you show them?

Years ago, Dr. Gary Chapman wrote the bestselling book The Five Languages of Love. In it, he suggests that everyone in the world communicates love and gratitude towards others in five unique ways, and while we enjoy all of them, each of us possesses a favorite love language. In fact, when someone we admire communicates to us through that language, we’re motivated for days.

The book was originally directed at married couples but has become a taxonomy for families, friends and colleagues. At Growing Leaders, I’ve discovered the preferred love language of each of our team members and attempt to speak it to them on a regular basis. Let me remind you of the five languages below and challenge you to use them with your family, the team you lead on the job, or the students you lead on your campus:

  1. Words of Affirmation – This is the person who basks in verbal encouragement and positive words of belief.
  1. Quality Time – This is the person who prefers the enjoyment of someone they admire investing personal time with them.
  1. Acts of Service – This person loves it when someone expresses gratitude for them by serving them in some way.
  1. Physical Touch – This person prefers an affirming hug, an embrace, or a pat on the back to words or deeds. An appropriate touch goes miles.
  1. Tangible Gifts – This person enjoys it most when someone shows gratitude through giving them gifts or tokens of appreciation.

So here’s my challenge: As soon as you’ve finished your turkey and dressing, why not sit down and determine what your team members’ love languages are? Then, figure out how you’re going to communicate that love to them the next time you see them.

I took on this challange years ago… and I’m so grateful I did.


Looking to develop leadership skills in students this school year? Check out

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Five Ways Leaders Can Show Gratitude