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The Thankful Leader

thankful

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought it would be of benefit to look at an aspect of leadership that is often overlooked. That is a spirit of “Thankfulness”. These are times of great change and uncertainty, but I have observed in many people that having an attitude of gratefulness for what you have will ground you in the right perspective and energize you for future growth.

Having gone through a prior year of major changes in my own personal and professional life, I realized that the ONLY thing that got me through those challenges was to be thankful for EVERYTHING. No matter how small or trying the circumstances, I knew that these were only shaping me, preparing me for bigger and better things to come. And, it gave me an inner peace that kept me rooted until the challenges were over.

Here are five ways to have a thankful attitude EVERY DAY:

1. Be thankful for your life. It’s the only one you have. Appreciate the first daylight and the first breath you take. A new day is like a gift, and be thankful for the opportunity to make something of it and build on the previous day. Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

2. Appreciate your family, friends, colleagues, and those that make up your life circles.  The people in your life are given to you for support, camaraderie, and to sharpen you. Show them your gratitude for their influence in your life by influencing and being a blessing to theirs. Build and edify those around you, and you will find a richness in those relationships that transcends time and trials.

3. No matter what career or job you have right now, rejoice in it. Even if you are in between careers or employment, it is always an opportunity to learn and grow. Out of work? Be thankful for the ability to look at hidden skills and new career vistas. Have a seemingly measly job? Many in the world would love to have your work and income in today’s economy. Use it as a training ground for bettering yourself. Have the career you love? Appreciate it and make the most of it to secure your future.

4. Show thanks for any trial, criticism, opposition, or defeat you face. Whether these come from external (people, events, market conditions) or internal (self-inflicted) circumstances, your attitude will determine how these events shape you. Blaming others doesn’t allow you to rise above the trails. Beating yourself up only has a place very briefly, then you need to move on. Looking at what is or has happened in a way to experientially grow and be sharpened will catapult your resolve to be better, mentor others, and lead the charge through the next trials that most certainly come.

5. Be thankful for the age in which we live in. While the world is changing at the most rapid pace ever, and we see and hear of so much change, we can take stock in many things. We have more history to teach us now than ever. Principles of business, people relationships, social interactions, and so on, stay the same but the approaches change with each generation. We live in the most technologically advanced age. We can have so much information that there is no reason that anyone cannot take this knowledge and better themselves from it. We also have so much support in business communities, social media, thought leaders, that are truly willing to build up people like yourself, that we should consider ourselves privileged to be in such great company.

By remembering and reflecting on these five things daily, you’ll come away with a great perspective on your daily life that will spurn you and others on to more fruitful and fulfilling lives.

Enjoy the weekend everyone!!

(image: news.uic.edu)

The Toll Booth Leader

Heading to one of my accounts last week, I slowed down as I headed to the cash lane at the turnpike toll. As the car ahead of me was pulling away, I crept forward to pay my dues to our state’s Highway Department. An older woman, probably about retirement age and average health, leaned out with her hand for my toll. What she did next took me totally off guard.

“Happy Birthday,” she exclaimed. At first, I wasn’t quite sure what she said, and as I started to ask “Huh?” she seemed to anticipate my confusion. “Happy birthday,” she said again. I then caught her eyes quickly glance at the inspection sticker on my windshield. A square decal with a large “9” on it.  In New Hampshire as in other states, your car registration and inspection are due every year on your birth month.

As soon I had this knowledge dropped on me, I instantly beamed. “Oh, thank you so much!” The pointing to the sticker, I said “Very observant of you, yes, thank you!” And without wanting to hold back traffic, I sped away to my destination.

In the moments right afterward, I thought to myself: How many people has this woman influenced today, this month, or even for this year? And not only by noticing people’s birth months, but in other ways that I didn’t even have an opportunity to experience?

I replayed the circle of emotions I felt after discovering her kindness. She made my day, and I was more energized than I would have been listening to the recap of the Red Sox’s win over the Yankees the night before.

But what struck me as a lesson for all of us is how she displayed some great leadership qualities with her emotional generosity. Leadership, you may ask? How does this toll booth worker exhibit leadership skills? Allow me to explain my observations.

First, a leader is one who uses their sphere of influence for the positive impact of those around them. From business executives to local volunteers, leaders move their world forward and upward by having a vision of what their world looks like, then imparting that to others throughout the course of their tenure. This woman had a goal of brightening people’s days and hoping that would translate into a positive impact on their world and beyond.

Second, a leader takes full advantage of their situations and surroundings to be the best and lead others to be their best. Despite their circumstances, leaders will leverage their point in time to make the best of the given situation to drive their vision upward. Dick Vitale could have used his firing from being head coach of the Detroit Pistons to hold him back. After reaching what seemed to be the top of his game, he was at the bottom. But instead, he realized he could have more far reaching impact to fan the flame of his passion for college basketball on the infant ESPN channel. for the next 3 decades, college hoops has a great following of fans thanks to Dick letting his fall from grace rob him of his ability to influence others. This woman at the toll booth is not letting what some people may deem a lowly position to deter her goal of making people’s days brighter. She sees it as the vehicle to reach thousands of others in their lives.

Finally, a leader is one who quietly serve others, with no thought or covetousness of reward, other than to do what they do passionately. Yes, leaders get compensated – great salaries, recognition, medals, and so on. Volunteers may even get awards and press write ups. This lady even gets a paycheck for her efforts each day. Yet I submit to you that the truly great leaders do not think merely of their role as merely means-gaining, but as world-changing. Whether they receive the pay or the praise, nothing in the world thrills them more than so see their influence impact those around them for a greater cause, a cause they fully believe in and fully intend to help others to see, no matter what the cost to themselves. They put all other desires aside to champion this cause. The lady in the toll booth is probably seem by some as weird, getting a “Why are you being nice to me?’ reaction from those who scorn such positive behaviors. But she sets aside those feelings, the feelings of “I’m just a toll booth worker” and the feelings of “I should have been something else in my life” and she willingly, gladly even, makes her mark in her world by putting the needs of others first.

If this woman can lead people by her inspiration, what is holding you back from impacting your world for the goals you believe in?

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