PhD research identified 10 practices that build trust and unlock the path to compelling leadership: acknowledging others is one of them.

I have learnt that leadership is often a thankless task. Very rarely will anyone think to thank the leader. In making this statement I’m not looking for pity, or even a ‘thank you’, but simply point out a reality so other leaders can take encouragement.

People don’t think to thank the leader: I don’t believe this is ever intentional, but symptomatic of the people’s view of people in leadership roles. By nature, we are quick to criticise and blame if something goes wrong but don’t stop to think of the blessings we all receive each and every day.

If you are a leader, don’t get hung up on the fact that you may never be the recipient of gratitude. Your sense of value will be found in the lives you have the privilege of interacting with every day. True motivation to do good wells up in our internal altruistic intent. “No thanks” can be thanks itself if we remember that what we are doing as leaders is to God’s glory. Instead, use this thankless task of leadership as a motivator or a reminder to thank those you seek to lead or come into contact with.

I met an amazing educator last week. Helen is working hard to make a difference in her school. She is a deeply reflective person, desperate to grow her leadership capacity. It was inspiring to hear her share her story. It is rare to find someone so honest and so passionate.

Helen had recently been given feedback about her leadership practice. As a result of that feedback she had adjusted her behaviour. She taught me something valuable about the practice of appreciation.

As a leader Helen had always practised the art of appreciation. She constantly looked for opportunities to thank people. She sent emails, left cards, or visited people to thank them for the work they had been doing: “Thank you Sam for organising the performance last night, it was just brilliant.”

However, Helen taught me that while a nice thing to do, thanks expressed in this way isn’t effective enough. People want to know that their efforts aren’t in vain but that they make a difference. Rather than just saying thank you, it is far more meaningful to thank the person for the difference their efforts are making.

“Thank you Sam for organising the performance last night, I have never seen young Ben express such courage. You have made a significant impact on his life.”

We all want to know that the efforts we go to actually are making a difference. Tell someone this. Instead of waiting to be thanked, ask yourself each afternoon before you go home from work: have I done my best to thank someone for the difference they are making? In doing so, not only will you be building that person, but you will be growing a compelling leadership built on trust.