I love the Thanksgiving holiday. Each year the celebration reminds me that practicing gratitude and believing in abundance create a more abundant life. These two concepts are at the heart of great leadership, an opportunity mindset, and building a better business model.
Gratitude (versus being unappreciative) and a belief in abundance (versus scarcity) are interdependent in my life. Reflecting on what I feel grateful for changes my lens on life. I see even more things to feel thankful for, making my world feel more abundant. When I fall into the trap of being too busy for my daily practice, my frustration level starts to rise and the world can feel far more limiting.
Gratitude is at the heart of great leadership. Grateful leaders are far more aware of how others are trying to advance their organization’s success. As a result, they show greater appreciation for customers, shipping dock personnel, the management team, and everywhere thanks is deserved. This appreciation in turn creates more commitment and followers. One of the reasons why non-profits are able to raise armies of volunteers in the thousands without paying them a dime comes from the sincere thanks that non-profit leaders extend to their volunteers.
I am not saying that leaders need not criticize or correct others. I am only saying that great leaders recognize what is working and create even more of it. Great teachers and coaches (two important roles for a leader) find what is working well, connect to it, and use that connection to help their student, athlete or employee grow.
An attitude of gratitude and abundance is key to maintaining an opportunity mindset. In business, entrepreneurs who are grateful for the learning experience of failures rather than afraid of its consequences are infinitely better equipped to handle the next challenge that they face.
An attitude of abundance builds better business models. How could anyone start a one-of-a-kind business for example without a belief there was room in the world for that business? Southwest Airlines pays its pilots the highest salaries in the industry, because it believes in their productivity. And they get that productivity back, contributing to the airline’s top-in-industry profitability.
Entrepreneurs are starting virtual companies at an unprecedented rate, convinced that top talent can be found in lots of places and need not be part of one’s formal organization. One of my new favorites, Madison’s Bruce Winkler, built the world’s leading virtual reality fitness business using virtual innovation with teams across the globe.
An attitude of abundance also enables companies to see opportunities otherwise hidden by cultural assumptions such as “don’t cooperate with your competitors.” I learned this lesson at Ohmeda, a global leader in anesthesia systems. We believed that there was more than enough room in our cause – improving anesthesia safety – for other players, so we partnered with our competitors to advance our cause. Drug company competitors are also collaborating to build a shared database to advance treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. They also believe there is more than enough opportunity for everyone to benefit. Many social enterprises are advancing the triple bottom line, not just profits, based upon a belief that profits and solving thorny social and environmental issues are not at odds.
When you say your Thanksgiving thanks, remind yourself to bring this spirit back into your organization. Gratitude leads you to observe abundance. Faith in abundance frees you to make decisions that create even more abundance.