3 Things You Can Do Right Now to Better the Lives of People

In fifty-plus years of leadership as a pastor, instructor, and administrator, I have practiced transformational leadership. When I began, that term didn’t have the cachet that it does today. In fact, the term connected to leadership didn’t exist. From my earliest days as a leader, I simply determined that I would build something positive into the lives of people, not merely use them to help me accomplish my goals.

Transformational leadership happens when the leader and followers relate to one another in such a way that they are motivated to reach a new level of moral, ethical, relational behavior. In other words, they are changed for the better by working together.

There are many things a leader can do to produce transformation in followers, but none is more valuable than the simple practice of expressing gratitude.

People long to be recognized both for who they are and what they’ve done. When you express your gratitude to people, you honor them, inspire them, and cause them to do the same for others.

Here are three concrete ways to transform your team through gratitude.

  1. Say Thank You for What People Do

This is so easy to do but so often overlooked. Perhaps you’ve had the experience of having your hard work dismissed or taken for granted. Deflating, isn’t it? And how exhilarating it is to have someone notice and appreciate what you have contributed—even if it is your job.

Say thank you as often as you possibly can. When you say thanks, you make a deposit of virtue into a soul.

  1. Express Affirmation for Who People Are

When I was a boy in church, students were rewarded for such things as perfect attendance or memorizing Bible verses with gifts so small they would bring a chuckle today. It might be a pencil, a bookmark, a cookie or a glow-in-the-dark plastic statuette. They would hardly be worth mentioning in today’s economy, but when my name was called and I was invited to the platform to pick up the award, it was like receiving an Olympic medal. It wasn’t the cost or the size of the award that mattered, it was the recognition that I had excelled.

“I’m proud of you” is one of the most powerful statements there is, nearly as potent as “I love you.” People hunger to be affirmed not just for what they have done but also for who they are. Affirmation can take many forms: a pat on the back, a greeting like “I’m glad to see you,” noticing a skill or ability, or even a change in job title.

  1. Trust People with Information and Opportunity

How do you know when you’re on the “inside track”? Usually when someone trusts you with insider information or with a sensitive task. When you trust someone, that person will generally live up to your trust. Team members need information, they crave responsibility, and they long to feel “in” with you and the organization.

Transformational leaders always treat their team members like insiders.

As a leader, your legacy will not be a building or a balance sheet. It will be the people who have served with you, worked with you, and given their best energies to follow your leading. Trust them, praise them, and thank them. By doing so you will change their lives—and your own.