As we collectively navigate the unfamiliar and profound circumstances of this new era, survival mode overrides our internal algorithm. Pandemic-induced adversity of this magnitude will push us to our edge and unrelenting conditions can overwhelm even the steadiest of leaders.
Connecting with our humanity during existential crises in business and our personal lives may feel like just another obligation or obstacle in the way of enduring this unprecedented shift; however, it precisely what we need most to overcome the biggest of challenges.
Gratitude is at the core of exceptional leadership. A mindset of thankfulness is an aspect of our daily lives that we can control, and it is instrumental in alleviating the added pressure of current circumstances. Gratefulness is a beacon of hope that helps us lead our teams and find comfort in the midst of rapidly-changing conditions. The moment doesn’t change us; it reveals who we are.
I’m Bo Parfet, an impact investor, philanthropist, explorer, author, and mountaineer. I am the founder and CEO of the impact investment organization Denali Venture Philanthropy. At Denali, we fuse our passions for both commerce and social change. Our company helps entrepreneurs whose altruistic philosophies center on the humanitarian betterment of the world’s most vulnerable and underserved communities.
As an investment banker in my early 20s on Wall Street, I faced hardships and setbacks, which was an essential element to my maturation process. In order to ‘reset’ on my most demanding days, I frequently cultivated gratefulness by meditating on what I was thankful for when I found it difficult to remain positive, and when the taxing experiences of my workday still resonated in my off-hours.
As I grew professionally, my desire for other aspects of personal fulfillment developed as well. I wanted to cultivate an expanded view and deeper perspective on the world at large. Ultimate appreciation was my ambition.
Climbing great heights would be where I found my life’s passion. With a rudimentary grasp on mountain climbing, my aspirations led me past my inexperience, and I forged ahead to scale earth’s highest mountain peaks, embarking on a mission to climb the tallest mountain on each continent.
Finding something you’re grateful for is imperative for survival in extreme situations. While the existential threats of exhaustion, starvation, death drops, friction with militias, drowning in crocodile-infested waters, and strife with corrupt army officials aren’t identical to the challenges we face today, the same attitude of appreciation is just as key to our perseverance and resolve.
If you find yourself laboring to be grateful in the current state of affairs or want to fortify your existing practice of active gratitude, below are principles and examples you can implement into your daily life.
Be generous by complimenting your team frequently. Sincerity and specificity are of the utmost importance to this measure. Letting your team members know you appreciate various aspects of their character, actions, and personality will positively affect them and fortify your relationship. Some examples: recognizing, then verbalizing, your appreciation of them always being early to meetings, spotlighting their commitment to taking initiative, lauding their sense of humor to break up the monotony of the workday, or highlighting an employee’s supportive nature, creativity, attitude and capacity to problem-solve. Any and all of these will go a long way.
Take inventory of what you are grateful for at the end of each day. Scheduling time to connect with yourself to elucidate what you are thankful for may seem unnecessary when one’s itinerary is already at capacity, but it puts things in perspective. Mindfulness and awareness are crucial elements of a successful leader. Brief moments of introspection lead to habitually exercising your mind, body, and soul in the practice of gratitude.
Amplify your employee’s voices. An active act of gratitude is encouraging your colleagues to express their thoughts. Feeling heard is empowering to anyone. When there is an opportunity, open important discussions to employees who aren’t often a part of the decision-making process, and indicate to your partners that their opinions, experiences, and ideas as individuals are valued. This helps your organization create a collective energy powered by positivity and collaboration.
Praise positive outcomes, however big or small. As a team, it’s just as important to come together and celebrate wins, as it is to support each other during losses. Commend any breakthroughs, achievements, milestones, slight improvements, and empathetic acts you observe of individuals or the team. Appreciation generates appreciation. If you create an environment that honors success, it will inspire and motivate the group to reclaim the feeling of gratitude every chance they get.
Invest in opportunities for career growth. Open paths for your workers to add to their skill sets and learn from new experiences. Providing learning resources, offering opportunities to attend conferences or workshops, and lending access to mentorship sessions with management will communicate to your staff that you and your organization are dedicated to your team members reaching their full potential.
All of us have room to become more grateful. Lead by example with promoting thankfulness, and your team will follow. Commit gratitude to muscle memory, and you will have the strength to maintain a balance of inner calmness in the midst of adversity. During these unprecedented times, it may be the very edge that propels your team forward.