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I excused myself as the gentleman on the aisle stood for me so that I could ease into the middle seat of the airplane row. He had white, curly hair – an exact Bob Ross look-alike, but a few years older. I could tell right away that he was going to be friendly and chatty. He didn’t have headphones in or a book in his hand, and I could see that he wasn’t prepared to take a nap.

It took only a few moments before we found out we were from the same area of San Diego. He was eager to share about a business he had started as a second career which had grown to around 70 employees. He pulled up his phone to show pictures of events they’d been having, and I could see the real joy he takes in them. The happiness he had while looking at the pictures of his business on his phone was the same happiness one might have had sharing pictures of a new grandchild. I felt genuine appreciation for how this man was able to carry out his vision with such passion!

Something that stood out to me during our conversation was that he wanted to take joy not just in the mission of his business or even in the profits, but he also took joy in his employees. He told me that once per month, he cooks lunch for all seventy of them! Cooking is another thing that he enjoys doing, and its his way of saying “thank you” to the people that work for him. While my passion isn’t cooking, it got me thinking about the importance of showing appreciation for those that we lead.

Paul mentions many times in his letters that he is thankful for the people he has raised up as leaders. In 1 Corinthians 1:4, he says, “I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.” Paul also says, “I thank my God every time I remember you,” in Philippians 1:3. Paul communicated his thanksgiving directly with a letter. Cards, letters, emails, calls, and texts of appreciation can still go a long ways! Sometimes, an email thanking someone for a job well-done can seem like a small thing, but for people who thrive on words of affirmation, it goes a long way. In such a fast-paced culture, people aren’t always accustomed to receiving thanks, and your words may be water for a thirsty soul.

Jesus certainly was an example of servant leadership when He washed His disciples’ feet (John 13). Is there some way that you can show appreciation for those that serve under you by taking a turn serving them? My husband is a pastor of a small church, and one year, we moved our entire Advent supper from church to our house so that we could host and cook a meal for our church members. They’d faithfully served meals for years and deserved a break from the set-up, the clean-up, and the meal-prep! We weren’t sure how everyone would fit in our home, and it was cozy, but God blessed that meal together by deepening our friendships!

Our goal in thanking those we lead shouldn’t be self-serving, as in just buying their loyalty or having them think more highly of ourselves and our generosity. We ought to thank those we lead from the heart, coming from a humble place of appreciation, knowing that we could not walk the road we are on without them lifting us up along the way. If you find yourself taking joy in your business, ministry or area of leadership right now, take time to stop and thank the people walking behind you and beside you so that they can share in the joy also.

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