What Is Gratitude?

True gratitude begins wtih deep humility.

True gratitude changes us.

True gratitude transforms our relationships.

True gratitude changes the game.

Courtesies Aren’t Gratitude

And yet, as leaders, we spend much time on “Thanks for passing the gravy” kind of thanks.

  • …thanks for this report
  • …thanks for the update
  • …thanks for coming to work on time
  • …thanks for returning my call
  • …thanks for dinner

Those courtesies are important and necessary. But they are not gratitude.

Recognition Isn’t Gratitude

Most organizations also do a pretty good job with formal recognition— taking time to determine who deserves the plaque and celebration. These ceremonies can surely come from a place of deep gratitude, but not necessarily. Often, they are based on numbers and rankings. Gratitude doesn’t come from spreadsheets.

Gratitude involves a deeper pause of true thanksgiving. I see this missing at many levels in organizations.

Gratitude is missing when…

an executive hears a presentation and immediately responds with questions, concerns, critiques and challenges, without a pause to consider the depth and breadth of work entailed, the long hours, and the creative thinking.

a middle manager is frustrated in his current role, but overlooks his long career of exciting challenges and developmental experiences.

a team leader acknowledges the team’s steady progress, but fails to understand the deep personal sacrifices of her team.

a team member resents the promotion of a coworker, and overlooks all the ways he has grown himself in the past year.

an employee didn’t receive the same tee-shirt as the guy in the next cube, and overlooks all the ways her family is benefiting from her job.

a volunteer feels slighted by a decision, and misses the magic of being part of something important in the community.

Thanks and recognition are about the receiver. As leaders, it is our job to say “thank you” and recognize good work.

Gratitude is also about the giver. True gratitude will transform our leadership.

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Posted in Authenticity & Transparency and tagged , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.


  1. Love this, Karin. I’ve also found that gratitude is also missed when small business owners ignore small wins because they have not yet had their big breakthrough. It’s gratitude that fuels the persistence and resilience required for success.

    I’m incredibly grateful to have connected with you! Collaboration is a joy for which I’m very thankful.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Karin!

  2. Beautiful post, Karin! Without gratitude leadership is empty and uninspiring.

    Gratitude is also choosing words and language that are heartfelt, so the recipient can feel their worth.

    I believe gratitude can be learned once a leader is ready to grow and honor others.

    Thanks Karin and I am grateful for having you in my life! Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Stev, Ahhh #confidenthumility Amen. Right now, I’m so full of gratitude that Marriott is letting my son’s 500 piece marching band practice in the ballroom rather than in the pouring rain outside. Off to go hear a joyful noise.

      Happy Thanksgiving.

  3. LOVE your point about courtesies not being gratitude, Karin.

    I tend to know when it’s gratitude when it takes someone effort to make it happen. As you say, it’s not just about being nice. It’s an intentional act that cost someone a little effort to make it happen. When we see that extra step, we feel gratitude—and it really makes a difference.

    I notice that in you, Karin! And I truly appreciate all that you do, both here and with the Energized Leaders book project.

    • LaRae, I so agree, there is real power in effort. You are a role model of deep, caring, effort. Namaste

  4. What is gratitude, then? Perhaps gratitude is telling someone they changed you so much that you are in a position to pass it on. Being changed this way is a privilege, and when you are changed in that way, please let the giver know your gratitude.

  5. Karin, Wonderful blog to highlight what gratitude truly is and what it is not. The examples that you have used for illustrating are very apt.Definitely agree with you that gratitude is more about the giver than the receiver. On this occasion, would like to sincerely thank you for the wonderful blogs that you circulate from time to time on thoughts of leadership.

    I started practicing focused gratitude as one of my goals this year and I have been reasonably successful. This has given immense joy to me. I can certainly get better at it but I am happy that I got started.

    I got inspired by this 3 minute video that I happened to see earlier this year on the 3 habits of happiness by Robin Sharma and thought of sharing this.


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