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Gifts Leaders Have to Give: Time, Attention, and Respect

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A good leader is powerful.  That word “powerful” can be misleading, though, and is often misunderstood.  When used properly, the power of a good leader comes from recognizing and using his/her ability to influence people and outcomes positively.  One of the ways to do that is to be a leader who gives good gifts to those who follow.  This four-part series will examine eight gifts leaders can give those they lead, beginning with time and attention, as well as respect.

Time and Attention.

An important gift leaders can give is time and attention to those they lead.  Leaders can be busy people.  However, busyness is no excuse for not giving time and attention to people you lead.  In fact, it has been said that one way to see a person’s priorities is to look at their calendar and their checkbook.  In this case, what does a leader’s calendar say about how important people are to them?  Do you keep time in your schedule to be available for people?  Often, the temptation is to try to move as quickly as possible back to “work” things when a people issue comes up.  Perhaps we as leaders need to reconsider that view and see giving time and attention to those we lead as not only a gift to them, but also an investment in the work we do together.

Of course there may be some who can and want to take unreasonable amounts of your time, and boundaries should be set in those cases.  However, it is also easy to overlook those who don’t demand much of our time but perhaps could benefit from some undivided attention.  This is especially true when there is not a crisis to deal with or a fire to put out.

Take some time this week and look at the people around you whom you lead.  Who can you give the gift of some time and attention to?


Closely related to the gift of time and attention is the gift of respect.  In fact, to many, giving time and attention is a way of showing respect.  However, it should go beyond that.  Respect is also how we treat people and comes from an internal attitude, not just actions.  People are often keenly perceptive of the level of respect they feel from their leaders.  In other words, you can’t fake it for very long without being found out.  Sometimes leaders fall victim to their own confidence, which can come across as condescension or arrogance: my way is the best way and there is no way your idea is going to be better.  This can easily be seen as a lack of respect.  A disrespectful leader can be incredibly damaging, whereas a respectful leader is respected in return.

One way to show respect is to actually listen to those we lead.  We might be pleasantly surprised to see how smart, caring, creative, and engaged they can be when we give our people respect and truly hear them and their ideas.  We can also show respect in how we handle conflict or discipline.  Do we treat those we lead as if they are our children?  Or do we give them the respect of being mature people who made a mistake or need some help with something?  We all have failed and made mistakes.  Perhaps some of us felt the sting of disrespect as a result.  We as leaders have a chance to change that pattern and be leaders who give the gift of respect.

Take some time this week and consider the level of respect we feel and show towards those we lead.  Is the level we feel reflected in our actions or is there a disconnect somewhere?  If so, what are you going to do about it?  Perhaps in the process of giving time and attention to people you can boldly ask if they feel respected by you.  If not, what could you do to help them feel the respect you have for them?

Time and attention and giving respect: two gifts that empower people and strengthen a leader.  The beauty of these gifts is that both sides, the giver and the receiver, are blessed.  These are not one-way gifts.  So, be generous in giving good gifts to those you lead, and be blessed in the process.

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