Gratitude Definition: 3 Step Approach for Effective Leaders

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Gratitude Definition: 3 Step Approach for Effective Leaders

The dictionary provide us a gratitude definition as the quality of being thankful and/or the readiness to show appreciation (kindness retribution). But, what comes to your mind when you think of gratitude? Most of us think of a simple “thank you” and move on with whatever else life throws at us. We don’t take the time to express gratitude in a meaningful way.

While multiple articles explain authentic gratitude, many fail to be specific. The articles present the problem but forget to teach the reader how to practice genuine gratitude.

Erich Fromm’s Four Attribute Framework

Tyler & Company is one of the nation’s top health executive search firms. We like to share with our candidates and clients any important career advice we can. This week, our Vice President Marion Spears Karr explains a way to exercise authentic gratitude. His ideas focus on applying Erich Fromm’s Four Attribute Framework, which consists of the following characteristics:


Don’t just say you are interested in something, show it.


If a project or a task is completed incorrectly take ownership for your mistakes.


Appreciating and admiring someone or something for its achievements, abilities, and qualities.


Awareness or familiarity with a topic or issue.

Gratitude Definition based on S.E.T. guidelines

Through these four characteristics, Karr created an acronym, SET, that give specific actions to practice authentic gratitude. A new approach to gratitude definition. Leaders can follow the SET steps and implement genuine gratitude for their daily activities.

Breakdown of S.E.T:

S: Specific.

Be specific about the act, behavior or gift.

This is important because it does the following:

  • Reinforces that the action is positive.
  • Frames future behavior – people like being consistent or appreciated. When we are specific about an act, it is more likely the person that is giving repeats the positive action.
  • It provides insight into the person that’s offering what the other person appreciates.

E: Explanatory.

Explaining is essential for the person doing the action to know how it can help the company, their growth professionally and personally.  It allows the person that is doing the work to wonder, “Why does this matter to the person being grateful?”

T: Thoughtful.

Use the name of the person you are thanking. When a person’s name is used, the gratitude is aimed towards them. It also allows the appreciation to be specific to what the person accomplished. Using names can also be done through a team’s name. By being thoughtful, you are shining the light at a specific employee or a group within the organization.

By being authentically grateful, leaders can show that everything that is done is essential. Every task, small or large is being executed for a higher purpose. Authentic gratitude helps the employee’s see there is value in the work they complete to the overall mission and experience. It encourages positive behaviors. No matter what position you hold, employees enjoy having team members, boss, and relationships that demonstrate positive behaviors.

Authentic gratitude shows employees the value of their and everyone’s work.

Next time you write a thank you note/email or you thank someone, follow the SET guideline and watch how others will be willing to continue to help you and show you kindness.

Example of SET:

Thanks, JO for the coffee. I didn’t get any sleep last night, and this coffee is going to help me focus on a report I need to turn in to my boss my noon.