Leadership Lessons From Thanksgiving

When you think of Thanksgiving, you probably think of family gatherings, great food, turkey, and a brief reprieve from work. You may not think of leadership.

Today, I want to challenge you to think about the leadership lessons Thanksgiving can teach us. It’s not that far of a stretch. It’s just something we don’t think about often.

A traditional Thanksgiving dinner on a table

Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to show us what leadership can be about. Let’s look at those things today.

Leadership Lessons From Thanksgiving

1. Leaders need to be thankful:

The Thanksgiving holiday comes but once a year. On this day, people begin to remember what they’re thankful for. Everybody has multiple things they can be thankful for.

When I think of what I’m thankful for, I think of the following:

Encourage Your Team’s Strengths

It is easy to see the weaknesses of your team. Sally may not be the most organized. Jim may be late 20% of the time. And Bob… don’t even get me started about Bob.

We are trained to look for the weaknesses of others. We need to see the weaknesses of others. If we don’t, how will we know what to work with them on to improve?


But what if we’re looking at things the wrong way? What if by focusing on your team’s weaknesses, you’re hurting your team?

It’s not a what-if scenario. It is a truth.

By focusing on the weaknesses of our teams, we’re hurting them. We’re constantly reinforcing what they’re doing wrong. They’re not dumb. They know the areas they struggle in.

Jim knows he’s constantly late. Bob knows he causes frustration in the office. And Sally knows she’s not organized.

How To Cast A Compelling Vision

What is vision? Vision is a critically important piece of any leadership plan. It is something you must create and share with your team over time.

Vision is a strong mental picture of what you would like to see you or your organization accomplish. Your vision could be:

  • To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline. – Southwest Air
  • To spread the power of optimism – Life Is Good
  • A just world without poverty – Oxfam
  • For clean water and fullness of life – Team World Vision
Man sitting and staring at a cloud covered expanse

Photo by Joshua Earle

Your vision statement can be long or short. For the examples above, I share 4 short vision statements. Each statement clearly communicates what the organization wants.

Your Employees Want To Know You Care

Caring isn’t a word you hear often in leadership. You hear more powerful words. You hear words like: Results, Return On Investment, Strengths, Action-orientated, and more.

The words you often hear in leadership have to do with getting results and taking action. They make you think of doing something powerful.

man and woman hugging against a cloudy background

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez

I’ve learned one of the most powerful things you can do as a leader is to show care. You, the leader, need to let your team members know you care about them.

Your Employees Want To Know You Care

I’ve experienced this first-hand multiple times. My father is getting up there in age. He’s currently 92 years old.

I’ve shared a little about my dad previously on this blog. You can find that article here. He’s a manly man who has had trouble with his health over the last couple of years.

Help Your Team To Thrive

Leaders have a really cool opportunity to help their team members in a way many other people cannot. Leaders are able to help their team members realize and thrive in their zones of brilliance.

I was reminded of this because of something our church does. The Assemblies Of God have a program called Fine Arts.

Man riding a black Harley Davidson motorcycle

Photo from Unsplash

Fine Arts is a program to help students discover, develop, and deploy their talents. It’s an amazing program that has helped launch students on a course they never thought possible.

Fine Arts allows students to perform in multiple areas of interest. Some of the areas students can perform are:

It is amazing to see our students get excited and perform in the categories that bring them alive. I’ve seen shy students crush a short sermon or come alive singing a vocal solo. This year, we saw students in our youth group perform comedy, exhibit photography and videos, and worship together as a worship group.