Good and Evil. Grateful and ungrateful. Gratitude does not exist without an opposite. I’m grateful for my health. I know what unhealthy is. I am grateful I have a good manager and work for a positive company. I know what bad managers are like and negative companies. I am grateful to be alive because I know the opposite is death. Being grateful acknowledges the reality of the opposite state and keeps the mind focused on health, great managers, positive companies, and life instead of unhealthy, bad managers, negative companies, and death.

Gratitude is a versatile word with many definitions. It’s a state of being, a powerful emotion, and a method for approaching life and leadership. Looking at the etymology of the word “gratitude” is like looking at the family tree of a highly successful family. Latin, gratus, is the origin of the word which morphed into “grate” from the mid-sixteenth century, meaning pleasing or agreeable. You can even find this root in words like “congratulations!” To be grateful is also to be graceful, to be thankful, to be loved, and to be great.

When leading with gratitude we focus on the practical and actionable ways that encourage gratitude-based thoughts and actions. Specifically, we encourage leaders to use gratitude as both a tactical approach and as a way of being.  

Using gratitude as an approach to a situation keeps things moving forward rather than just sitting and being grateful. While there is nothing wrong with just sitting and being grateful, doing nothing is generally not conducive to business success. When gratitude is used as an approach to situations like missed deadlines, conflicts, and difficult people the interactions and outcomes are typically more innovative, engaging, robust, and sustainable. When we think of gratitude as an approach it implies that you can build skills, change behaviors, and apply techniques to improve your approach.

The second way we suggest leaders view gratitude is as a muscle, as a way of being. Our gratitude muscle is always with us and is only as strong as we’ve built it. The more we use it on a regular basis the stronger it becomes. Using gratitude as an approach is one way to build a strong gratitude muscle. Having a regular gratitude practice also builds a strong muscle. This is why our definition for leading with gratitude has two parts: “A conscious appreciation as a way of being and an actionable approach that results in positive engagement and innovation.” 

We have identified twelve ways both personally and in business that people practice gratitude. Here are some ways to practice gratitude daily (link) personally and for business (Link). 

What needs to be in your practice for building strong gratitude muscles? Your definition of gratitude will affect how you practice gratitude. How do you define gratitude? If you are interested to see how other leaders define gratitude here are some of their answers from week one of our Leadership Gratitude Journal (link).