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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Management

This Is the Most Underrated Way to Be a Better Leader in Everything You Do

You’ve probably heard about the benefits of cultivating an attitude of gratitude. After all, it’s old news by now that researchers in the positive psychology movement have determined that expressing appreciation is strongly associated with greater happiness. That means if you want to be a happier person, start by giving thanks!

But did you know that expressing your gratitude at work can also make you a more effective leader? Here’s how.

1. Gratitude Increases Performance

Want to lead a high-performing team? Recognize them for doing great work. Research commissioned by O.C. Tanner found a strong link between employees’ performance and managers who regularly recognize their team.

When asked, “What is the most important thing that your manager or company currently does that would cause you to produce great work?” 37% of employees reported that more personal recognition would encourage them to consistently deliver higher performance. In fact, the study found that appreciation is the most important driver of superior work performance.

But how can you effectively show gratitude? Try sending a handwritten thank you note. Jimmy Fallon does it every week, and you should, too. It may be a small gesture, but it will mean a lot to the people you work with.

Keep a stack of thank you cards in your desk so you can dash off a timely note when someone demonstrates a new strength, takes one for the team, or delivers performance that goes above and beyond.

If you’d rather go high-tech, post an appreciative comment via Twitter or LinkedIn. But remember: Recognition works best when it’s delivered in real-time. As leadership guru Ken Blanchard suggests, “Catch people doing things right.”

2. Gratitude Increases Job Satisfaction

Want a happier team? Lea Waters at Melbourne Graduate School of Education found that employees who are part of a workplace culture that promotes gratitude experience greater job satisfaction and overall well-being.

Leaders can boost job satisfaction by regularly expressing appreciation and prompting their team members to focus on what they are grateful for. Waters suggests creating a gratitude board in the breakroom, providing employees with thank you cards to send to their colleagues, or publicly expressing appreciation during weekly department meetings.

3. Gratitude Is Contagious

Waters also notes that one person’s appreciation can go viral, becoming “amplified across an organization and reciprocally expanded, which has the potential to positively influence job satisfaction of all employees.”

When you express your gratitude to one person or one team, you might just set a bigger ripple effect in motion. And even if you don’t, the more often you express your gratitude, the more often others will experience it—and that’s almost as good!

4. Gratitude Is Good for Business

In the study, “Make Recognition Count,” Bersin by Deloitte found that companies with well-established employee recognition programs are 12 times more likely to have strong business results. Surprisingly, however, only 20% of organizations take full advantage of this benefit.

If your company doesn’t have a formal recognition program, there are simple and cost-effective ways to build a culture of gratitude within your team. Just take a look at Hallmark’s blog, which suggests 25 ways to recognize employees, including holding monthly recognition meetings, hosting an awards ceremony, or planning a quarterly staff appreciation event.

Don’t just give thanks at the Thanksgiving table this month—and only this month. Expressing gratitude to your people year-round and creating a team culture of appreciation at work can boost your team’s performance and job satisfaction, create positive ripple effects, and boost overall business results.

Photo of team meeting courtesy of Shutterstock.