What makes a leader?

If you had to pick just one quality that determined a leader, what would that quality be? Why do some people, no matter where they go in life, rise to become leaders of whatever organization they are a part of? Whether it be a Fortune 500 company, a non-profit charity, a committee, a social circle or simply a pickup basketball team these people seem to always have what it takes to lead. While there are many characteristics a leader has, there is one distinct quality that is critical, and without it, in my opinion, these people would not make the ultimate leadership cut.

I've read study after study, listened to lectures and speeches on leadership. I've read books about great leaders like Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, Steve Jobs, Stephen Covey, Henry Ford and many others. And I have studied their systems, read articles about their lives, both professionally and personally, and I think I have found a common denominator in all true leaders.

Leaders sometimes have charisma, but not always. A leader might be strong willed and dig their heels in to get a job done, but not always. And while persistence and tenacity are great leadership qualities, they are not requirements for being a leader. Leaders can be creative and often times people in a position of leadership think outside the box. But I have come across plenty of leaders in my career who work within rigid parameters and who are not very creative.

So what is the one quality that turns ordinary people into extraordinary leaders? True leaders show gratitude. True leaders understand the concept of honest appreciation and heartfelt praise. Leaders know the difference between "thank you" and "I appreciate you."

Leaders understand that nothing can be accomplished without support from others. Genuine gratitude and appreciation motivates others to want to pitch in and do a good job. We all want to be appreciated and it's proven, once we receive genuine appreciation, we will work harder to accomplish a task, project or responsibility.

Research has been done on the effects of gratitude and appreciation in our lives. Gratitude gives us a feeling of elation and joy. Gratitude creates a human connection and helps us move towards even more collaborative relationships. Think about the connection you have with people you like the most. They are probably the people that appreciate you the most, show gratitude for a job well done, and sincerely regard your relationship and your efforts.

A side effect to showing gratitude is that it boosts the self esteem of both the giver and the receiver, in addition to further strengthening the human connection. Showing gratitude is a true win win for all parties involved. Leaders understand that gratitude is contagious. Once the gratitude-fest starts, your organization will never be the same.

Want to find the true leaders within your organization? Find the person that shows genuine gratitude and heartfelt appreciation and I will show you a team that is willing to follow her anywhere.

People with everyday greatness are quick to exhibit everyday gratitude. They do not take life or the kindness of others for granted. They are eager to say thanks and the first to express praise. Many have found the best sleeping pill comes from counting one’s blessings, naming them one by one.
— Stephen Covey