A Treatise on Grateful Leadership and How it Complements Organizational Transformation




 If I hadn’t…  by Judy Umlas

If I hadn’t gone to my local post office to mail a copy of the newly published Grateful Leadership book…

If postal worker Diana Rodriguez hadn’t then taken a keen interest in the book as she was preparing it for mailing to my Executive Coach in the UK (I didn’t just slip it in an envelope for a US mailing).…

If she hadn’t been taking a course in Leadership in her Organizational Management program at Nyack College…

If she hadn’t taken my business card and then contacted me immediately for the e-File of the book I had offered to her (I do this often but rarely get taken up on it)…

If she hadn’t asked my permission to prepare a PowerPoint presentation for the class about Grateful Leadership (see linked blog post below which contains that presentation)…

If she hadn’t offered to connect Professor Hundley with me, which she did …

If he and I hadn’t enjoyed a lively conversation over a delicious breakfast in Nyack, NY…… then Professor Alfred A. Hundley, one of whose major academic interests is the comparative study of most effective Leadership Models, might not have learned about Grateful Leadership until much later on, and might not have written the very positive and insightful article about it that you see below!

Sometimes, seemingly inconsequential things just happen — in order to make great things happen! And I am truly grateful!


Guest Blog

A Treatise on Grateful Leadership and How it Complements Organizational Transformation by Alfred L. Hundley (September, 2015) 


Before we come to the conclusion that grateful leadership complements the transformative nature in organizations, we must look at the two leadership behaviors that grateful leadership builds on.

Transformational Leadership

According to Bass (1999), transformational leadership refers to moving the follower beyond immediate self-interests through idealized influence (charisma), inspiration, intellectual stimulation or individualized consideration. It elevates the followers’ level of maturity and ideals as well as concerns for achievement, self-actualization, and the well-being of others, organization, and society (Bass, 1999, p.11).

Servant Leadership

According to Laub (1999), “servant leadership is an understanding and practice of leadership that places the good of those led over the self-interest of the leader” (p.81).This definition was further expanded by adding the following descriptive framework. “Servant leadership promotes the valuing and development of people, the building of community, the practice of authenticity, the providing of leadership for the good of those led and the sharing of power and status for the common good of each individual, the total organization, and those served by the organization” (Laub,1999 p.81).

Grateful Leadership

Grateful leadership builds on both transformational and servant leadership behaviors by using the dimensions of transformational and servant leadership, and emphasizing authenticity in employing the essence of acknowledgement and gratitude. The notion here is to use authenticity to foster courage to make decisions; the willingness to take initiatives; the trust in the organization and fellow employees; and motivation to strive for continuous improvement (Umlas, 2013). The potential for grateful leadership to become a high order construct is the conceptualization of acknowledgement, in the context of organizational change, individual gratitude, and institutional gratitude which will help to foster organizational transformation.


So, grateful leadership appears to have the important hallmarks that help to complement the processes of organizational transformation. The defining elements to this argument are that organizational transformation is driven by a vibrant organizational culture; and that a vibrant organizational culture is sustained through an interaction with a leadership behavior that manifests authenticity to foster (1) the courage to make decisions;(2) the willingness to take initiatives (3); the trust in the organization and fellow employees; and (4) the motivation to strive for continuous improvement.

What remains for the future of grateful leadership is its validation as a theoretical construct and the development of a scale to measure its effect on organizational transformation (change), productivity, organizational effectiveness or any variable of interest to be studied.


Bass, B.M. (1999): Two decades of research and development on transformational leadership. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 8, 9-32 

Laub, J.A (1999): Assessing the servant organization: Development of an Organizational leadership Assessment (OLA) instrument. Dissertation Abstracts International, 60(02), 308A (UMI No. 999219220 

Umlas, J.W. (2013). Grateful leadership: Using the power of acknowledgement to engage all your people and achieve superior results (1st Edition). McGraw Hill: New York


Alfred L. Hundley has over 15 years corporate experience in both public and private sector organizations, and has held senior and executive level managerial positions as well as serving as a corporate trainer, before transitioning to the world of academia. Hundley is a Professor of Business and Leadership at Nyack College. He has been teaching in higher education for over 14 years. His scholarly interests are in leadership and organizational studies, specifically studying organizational development and change issues. 

(Professor Hundley plans to write a future article titled: “How Do Grateful Leadership and Appreciative Inquiry Coalesce to Impact on an Organization’s Transformation?”)  


Read more about how Judy and Professor Hundley began their relationship here!