Our Seat at the Table

Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison highlights why all leaders should be thankful.

Gary Burnison is CEO of Korn Ferry and the author of Take Control: The Career You Want, Where You Want.

Imagine walking into a large, open room. All you see at the center is a long table. Then, as the scene comes into focus, you’re surprised that, seated in each chair, are some of the most important people in your life—the ones who helped you, inspired you, changed you.

Lost in unfamiliar territory, it was that stranger who guided you. Stressed and overwhelmed, there was the colleague who offered their time. Worried and uncertain, it was the compassionate friend. And, when you felt like you couldn’t take any more, it was that person who reached for your hand.

For each and every one of those people, we are truly thankful.

No doubt, at this time of year, we’re accustomed to expressing such thoughts—talking about love and hope, joy, and gratitude. But as much as we always strive for those ideals, at this particular moment and given the events of the world, it can feel out of touch… and out of tune.

Yet in this traditional season of thanksgiving, we can only hope to find deeper meaning. It’s right there in the word itself—thanks and giving.

This is not a time for passive, albeit well-intentioned, thankfulness for what we receive from others. Rather, by modeling the examples of those who have elevated us throughout our lives, we can aspire to be that person for whom others are genuinely grateful—the one who offers and extends a hand.

After all, leadership is not a role—it’s a calling.

First, last, and always, leadership is about inspiring others to believe and enabling that belief to become reality. By our words and actions, we can show that hope and humanity are not luxuries, but necessities.

And this brings us back to that imaginary room—where we now see that there is an empty chair. As we take our seat at the table, we accept the invitation to become that person for someone else… and our thanks becomes our giving.