Most Important Thing a Leader Does

Not long ago I read a blog that posed the question: "What is the most important thing a leader does?"

I don't remember the blog, but remember the question and several of the comments. Many people said things like "casting vision," "tell the truth," "model behavior," and "making decisions."

Obviously, all of those things are important but I think something else is even more important.

I think the most important thing a leader does is to say "thank you."

Max DePree says "The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say 'thank you.'"

In my mind, if you don't start by saying "thank you," you'll never earn the right to define reality.

No leader gets to where he is without the help of others. Leaders who think they are "self-made" are normally self-destroyed in short time. Great leaders, I think, recognize the people they lead and remember to say "thanks."

"Thank you" is extraordinarily powerful.

"Thank you" earns credibility you can't earn any other way because it says, "I noticed; it mattered; and I'm grateful." "Thank you" also reinforces vision by celebrating it when you see it. It demonstrates humility by recognizing someone did something you didn't, couldn't, or wouldn't, but which directly impacted you. And, regularly saying "thank you" gives the leader a constant reminder of the vast number of people without whom the leader probably would not be a leader at all.

I spend the first part of every Monday morning hand-writing thank you notes to a few of the people I'm grateful for. I can't write them to everyone who deserves them but I can make a sizable dent over a long period of time. It's one of the only things I use paper for anymore, but is easily one of the most important things I think I do every week.

What about you? Is there another leadership task you think is more important? How do you show gratitude for the people who serve alongside you?