Leadership Gratitude Exercise

I used this recently with a group of managers as part of a workshop on positive and appreciative leadership. It is an effective way into the virtuous practices aspect of flourishing organizations and into the topic of authentic leadership. It could just as well be used as an exercise in individual executive coaching or development.



The brief moment of reflection on blessings that the exercise invites helped these leaders remember that they are connected to, and dependent on, many others. Some left resolved to make their (previously somewhat hidden?) sense of gratitude and appreciation more obvious. This exercise could be built on with individuals with the suggestion of the keeping of a gratitude journal. (The clue is in the title, it’s a journal in which you write down things you are grateful for everyday. This exercise is proven to lift mood in a short space of time).


The Exercise

Form people into groups of 4-6 people and invite them to introduce themselves. Then invite them each to share three things they feel grateful for

1) To their colleagues (individual or collective)

2) To their organization as a whole, or the leadership of their organization

3) And finally offer them a free choice (anything or anyone of their choice to whom or for which they feel grateful or gratitude)


Suggest they might like to start their sentences:


 ‘I want to express thanks..’


‘I’m very grateful that/for…’


And encourage them to enlarge on what difference the thing they are grateful for, or person they are grateful to, has made to their lives.

Once everyone has been around and shared their stories encourage the group to reflect on the experience of the exercise and, as ever, their learning from it.

Feedback from the recent workshop included the observation that it was easy to overlook the things that one is grateful for amongst the hurly-burly, frustrations and challenges of organizational life and that to reflect on reasons to be grateful was both a pleasant and a humbling experience.

In addition people commented on the value of taking time to experience gratitude, noticing that this led, in some cases, to a resolve to say something to someone. In a coaching session one could build on this to suggest that they write the person a gratitude letter, and then arrange a time to read it to them. This again is proven to be an excellent mood boosting exercise.


When to use

It worked well as an opener to a session exploring what leadership is and means. It could also be used:

  • As an exploration of virtuous practices in flourishing organizations
  • In workshops focused on authentic, ethical and moral leadership
  • As part of individual or executive coaching


Other Resources

More on using Positive Psychology techniques at work can be found in Sarah’s book Positive Psychology at Work.

See more articles about positive psychology and leadership in the Knowledge Warehouse.



Appreciating Change is skilled and experienced at supporting leaders in working in this challenging, exciting and productive way with their organizations. Find out more by looking at how we help with LeadershipCulture change and with employee Engagement.

For further information on these alternative approaches to change, please contact us or phone 07973 782 715