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Are You a Grateful Leader?

Healthy Leaders

Are You a Grateful Leader?

Charles StoneCharles Stone

Jesus once performed an amazing mass healing when he healed 10 lepers all at once (Luke 17.11-19). However, what amazed Jesus most was that only one leper came back to thank Him. The responses these lepers gave so astounded Jesus that Luke records three questions He asked out loud after the healing. “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (vv. 17-18) The big deal Jesus made about gratefulness in the one leper (and the lack thereof in the nine), points to the high value He places on a grateful heart. I believe leaders above all should evidence a grateful heart. Evaluate your level of gratefulness against these three gratefulness indicators.

Indicators that you are a grateful leader.

  1. I avoid rush-i-ness

Rush-i-ness (a word I made up) pictures the leader who rushes from one task or meeting to the next. In his rush-i-ness, his hurry causes him to miss what he should be thankful for. Nine of the healed lepers were in such a hurry to show their healed bodies to the priests (the Jewish law requirement for re-entry into society) that they forgot to thank Jesus. Rush-i-ness stifles gratitude because in our hurry, we often miss what we should be grateful for. John Ortberg wisely noted that hurry points not only to a disorganized schedule, but to a disordered heart.

  1. I intentionally look for things about which to be grateful. 

We all deal with a brain phenomenon called inattentional blindness, missing what is right before our eyes because we are focusing on something else. In a famous research experiment, a researcher filmed a half dozen students tossing a basketball back and forth to each other. Half-way through the 90-second video someone in a gorilla outfit appears in it as he walks in front of the students, pauses, and then walks off. In studies of people who watch the video and are told ahead of time to focus on counting the number of times the ball is tossed, an average of 50% miss seeing the gorilla.

In my master’s program in the neuroscience of leadership, I watched the video with the same instructions (count the ball tosses) and I didn’t see the gorilla until my prof showed us the video a second time.  I was so focused on counting the ball tosses that I missed the obvious. We leaders are often guilty in the same way of missing what we should be aware of and, thus, thankful for. The leper didn’t let the need to appear before the priest keep him from gratefulness.

  1. I verbalize my appreciation to others for what I’m grateful for. 

Jesus was omniscient. He could have read the minds of all the lepers and noticed that they were grateful and been satisfied with that. He didn’t do that, however. He made a big deal about only one returning to thank Him and the other nine not doing so. I believe we complete true gratitude when we verbally express it to God for His specific blessings or tangibly show gratitude to those around us.

Ask yourself these questions about how you as a leader value and practice gratefulness.

  1. Who on my team did I tangibly appreciate last week?
  2. Have I built into my annual goals and plans tangible ways to thank staff and volunteers?
  3. How would others describe my practice of gratefulness: like the one leper who returned (tangible gratefulness) or like the nine who didn’t (very little if any gratefulness)?

I’d love to hear how you build gratefulness into your ministry or organizational culture. What have you found to be effective gratefulness practices?