“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy


As an association volunteer leader, you face challenges and decisions every day. Along the path to progress, gratitude is an important leadership quality that often gets missed. Being grateful is a powerful tool for leaders that can encourage positive change, nurture strong partnerships, and inspire an environment of trust and productivity within an association.


What is Gratitude?

Gratitude involves showing appreciation for the things and people in your life that are meaningful or valuable to you. Taking a moment to notice and acknowledge what you are grateful for each day can brighten your outlook, and help you feel more positive in the face of challenges and when leading others.

Gratitude isn’t just about saying ‘thank you’ or ignoring life’s challenges; it’s an important attitude that can form the culture of your association and enhance your ability as a leader. Practicing gratitude is beneficial in the following ways:

1. Promoting a Positive Association Culture

Gratitude is contagious. When you express gratitude for the efforts and contributions of others, it creates a ripple effect throughout the association. Members who feel appreciated and valued are more likely to pass on this positivity to other members. A culture of gratitude encourages inclusivity resulting in teamwork, a sense of belonging, and an overall more positive and productive environment.


2. Motivating and Engaging Key Audiences

Associations rely on the dedication and passion of their volunteer Board and members. Expressing gratitude for hard work and commitment is an effective way to motivate and engage others. When people feel their efforts are recognized and valued, they are more likely to remain dedicated and enthusiastic. When you recognize and appreciate someone’s contributions, you inspire them to aim higher.


3. Building Stronger Relationships

Gratitude extends to the association’s members, and other key stakeholders. By expressing genuine gratitude to members for their support and engagement, you reinforce their commitment to the association. Showing appreciation goes a long way in building strong, lasting relationships. When people feel valued, they are more likely to be engaged and committed to the association’s mission. Simple acts of saying “thank you” or acknowledging their contributions can boost morale and create a culture of camaraderie. For more on relationships in an association board, read The Importance of a High Functioning Association Board.


4. Fostering Trust

Trust is the backbone of effective leadership. Demonstrating gratitude is a powerful way to earn and maintain trust. When your peers know that their efforts are recognized and appreciated, they are more likely to trust your decisions and suggestions. This trust then leads to smoother collaboration, improved communication, and a more cooperative environment. For more on fostering trust check out The Importance of Fostering Relationships Between an Associations Board & Staff.

5. Improving Decision-Making and Problem Solving

A grateful leader is often a more mindful leader. When you take the time to acknowledge the strengths and contributions of the Board and stakeholders, you develop a sharper sense of the resources available to you. This can lead to more informed and thoughtful decision-making. Gratitude can help you see the bigger picture and find creative solutions to challenges, benefiting your association in the long run.


6. Enhancing Well-being

Gratitude isn’t just beneficial for the Board or committee; it’s essential for your own well-being as a leader. Expressing gratitude can increase your overall sense of fulfillment. It reminds you of the positive aspects of your role and your life, even during difficult times. A leader who maintains a positive outlook is better equipped to guide the association through challenging times.


Benefits of Practicing Gratitude

The idea of nurturing gratitude might sound a little cheesy, yet it can have some very real benefits.

  • Improves your mood.
  • Reduction in stress and anxiety
  • Better sleep
  • Improved focus
  • Increased patience
  • Positive relationships with other people


Expressing gratitude is an act of strength. Embracing gratitude is a fundamental leadership trait that can help you lead the association to continue to move forward in a positive direction. Cultivating gratitude helps us to appreciate what is going well, allows us to slow down for a few seconds and take a breath, and to say thank you.


A leader sets the tone for the entire association. Actions can become a powerful example for others, encouraging a culture of gratitude to grow throughout the association. In turn, this positivity can lead to a more optimistic and cooperative environment.


It takes true conscious leadership to say thank you, and mean it, to look outside of yourself and see how much there is to be grateful for what’s around you. Gratitude is the quiet force that reminds us to take a step back and appreciate everything that we have.