It is said that on his retreat from Greece after his great military expedition there, King Xerxes boarded a Phoenician ship along with a number of his Persian troops. But a fearful storm came up, and the captain told Xerxes there was no hope unless the ship's load was substantially lightened.

The king turned to his fellow Persians on deck and said, It is on you that my safety depends. Now let some of you show your regard for your king. A number of the men bowed to Xerxes and threw themselves overboard.

Lightened of its load, the ship made it safely to harbor. Xerxes immediately ordered that a golden crown be given to the pilot for preserving the king's life-then ordered the man beheaded for causing the loss of so many Persian lives.

One of the most important characteristics a leader must possess is gratitude. While team members may look to you for vision as to where the organization is headed, the climate you create in getting there is equally important.

In the 1980 hit movie 9 to 5, there is a scene in which three co-workers, played by Dolly Parton, Lili Tomlin, and Jane Fonda each share fantasies as to how they would like to kill off their boss, Mr. Hart (Dabney Coleman).The three have wised up to the shenanigans of Mr. Hart and are out to bring him down. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L19GOqAeT6Q)

One day by mistake, the plan concocted by Violet (Tomlin) happens. Rat poison is accidentally placed in the coffee of Mr. Hart. In the initial aftermath of the accident the three are having a conversation.


Violet: Oh, God. They know about the rat poison. I might as well just turn myself in.
Doralee: Violet, it was an accident.
Violet: I'm a murderer.
Judy: No, you're not.
Violet: I'm a murderess. I'm gonna go to the pen. My poor kids. I'm gonna lose my job.
Judy: Stop this.
Violet: I'm no fool. I've killed the boss, you think they're not gonna fire me for a thing like that?

While the story-line of the movie is funny and entertaining, there is nothing funny about working under conditions that evoke such strong negative emotions. Leadership needs to understand that the road from cast vision to reality is paved by good, hard working, loyal people. Here are some characteristics of a grateful leader.

A grateful leader inspires his team. When the captain of the ship told Xerxes that the load needed to be lightened, he called upon Persians to make the ultimate sacrifice. Men willing to make that type of sacrifice for the life of the King obviously were devoted to him.

Famed football coach Lou Holtz said, Ability is what you are capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it. A grateful leader will inspire his team to become the best they can be, and have a great attitude.

If you want to know how inspiring you are as a leader, look at how many are jumping ship for you (positively doing whatever it takes for success) verses how many are jumping ship in spite of you. A smart leader not only inspires his team, he genuinely appreciates them.

A grateful leader rewards his team. When the ship arrived safely in the harbor, the King ordered that a golden crown be given to the pilot for preserving his life. A grateful leader understands that without his team working hard and making sacrifices, there would not be the level of success now enjoyed.

Rewarding team members can take on a variety of looks. While it is common to think of monetary rewards, you might want to consider rewards that money cannot buy. Team members genuinely appreciate simple things like hand-written notes expressing appreciation for a job well done.


A grateful leader builds the morale of his team. After arriving in port, Xerxes ordered the pilot beheaded for the loss of so many Persian lives. How ironic it was that the man responsible for saving the life of the King now has his taken away by him.

A grateful leader remembers where he came from and who is responsible for helping him get there. Charles E. Jefferson said, Gratitude is born in hearts that take time to count up past mercies. It is important as a leader to show heart-felt gratitude for past mercies by your team. In doing so, you inspire them - now reward them and build their morale.

Are you a grateful leader?

© 2010 Doug Dickerson

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Doug Dickerson is an award winning writer and motivational speaker. He is the director of Management Moment Leadership Services. Visit www.managementmoment.net to learn more.