Have you finished your shopping yet? Here are five gifts you can give your followers this Christmas and into 2010.
1. Your sense of humor. People know when you are taking things too seriously. Cultivate a light-hearted spirit, and you’ll be giving them a gift – not to mention gifting yourself. You don’t have to become a comedian. But if you can lighten up, you will find that life together will be easier.
2. Your best thinking. Become as thoughtful as possible about your leadership. People want to know what you think and where you’d like to head. They may not agree with your thoughts, and in some settings (like church), you may simply be starting a conversation. But you owe it to them to tell them how you see it. Work hard to figure out what you think, and say it out loud to your followers.
3. Space. Don’t crowd people. They need emotional space to choose to follow. Don’t micromanage staff, and don’t try to willfully impose your views on others. Give them the gift of breathing room. That doesn’t mean you wait forever or put up with anything. But it does require respecting others and their resources: “We’re all adults here.”
4. Your learning. Give people the gift of your curiosity, about them and about the world. Remember that you never know another person 100%, not even your spouse of many years. Continue to be open to new insights from them and about them. And be a learner about leadership, the world at large, God, and your avocation.
5. Yourself. Your deepest self is the most important gift you have to give. You don’t have to reveal all – boundaries are a critical part of leadership. But you need to truly be present with people. This matters in public presentations as well as one-on-one conversations. Leadership is about relationships. People know instinctively when you are fully present. Edwin Friedman used to say, “A self is more attractive than a no-self.” When you are fully in your own skin as a leader, you’ll enjoy it more, and others will find your leadership more compelling.
Leaders don’t give these gifts once and for all. If we truly intend to give them, we must pay attention all year long. If we do, we’ll receive as much as we give.