THE BLOG
11/27/2014 10:07 pm ET Updated Mar 16, 2015

Leadership Matters: Gratitude Leads to Greatness

"Once you start recognizing the truth of your story, finish the story. It happened but you're still here, you're still capable, powerful, you're not your circumstance.

It happened and you made it through. You're still fully equipped with every single tool you need to fulfill your purpose."― Steve Maraboli

On Thanksgiving, most of us reminisce about the good times. We say thanks for all the gifts we've been given. But it's extremely valuable to practice gratitude for the challenges in our lives.

In an article for the Harvard Business Review, leadership researchers describe the life of Daniel Vasella, who was diagnosed with asthma as a five year old and sent away for whole summers to live with an alcoholic caretaker. He contracted tuberculosis, then meningitis when he was 8, and his sister died two years later. When Daniel was 13, his father died in surgery, leaving his mother to support the family alone.

During medical school, with the help of a talented therapist, Vasella reframed the story of his life. He did not want to think of himself as a victim.

This intentional introspection inspired Dr. Vasella to positively impact as many people as possible. Eventually, he became the CEO of one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.

Rather than give up in defeat, rebel in anger or live life as victims, leaders use their hard times as catalysts for growth and success.

Analyzing 3,000 pages of transcripts, our team was startled to see you do not have to be born with specific characteristics or traits of a leader. Leadership emerges from your life story.-Discovering Your Authentic Leadership, Harvard Business Review

Like Daniel Vasella, Franklin Delano Roosevelt used extremely challenging circumstances to transform his life.

In 1924, committed to recovery from the devastating illness of polio, Roosevelt traveled to a Warm Springs resort with high hopes that the mineral water in the springs could treat his paralysis. The time at the resort didn't do much for his physical recovery, but Roosevelt thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being buoyed by the salt water so that he could practice walking. He observed that many polio victims at the resort made tremendous gains in the form of fellowship, ability perception (even tiny gains seem enormous when one is afflicted), and restored faith in the future.

Roosevelt was inspired to use most of his fortune in 1927 to save the resort from financial ruin and establish the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation. For nine decades, this resort has served as an invaluable source of information and healing for people with disabilities.

It's not easy. It can take years to change your perception, but the willingness to view your life through the inspirational lens of empowerment changes everything

Give thanks for your challenges this holiday weekend. Ask yourself the questions that empower you.

What can your challenges teach you? Where can they lead you?

It takes someone special to be inspired by the hard times.

It takes a leader.

Happy Thanksgiving.

"Franklin's illness proved a blessing in disguise, for it gave him strength and courage he had not had before. He had to think out the fundamentals of living and learn the greatest of all lessons-infinite patience and never-ending persistence."~Eleanor Roosevelt