7 Unforgettable Leadership Gifts for the Holiday Season and Beyond

Throughout the year, we give gifts to mark various occasions. For many, exchanging presents is not merely tradition but an outward sign of appreciation for another. People put time, energy, and effort into finding the perfect gift.

The gift-giving practice often extends to the workplace, where leaders give presents to their team members for birthdays, holidays, and work anniversaries.

Far be it from me to squash tradition. By all means, buy your employees gifts, but remember that the gesture can become a distant memory a few days after exchanging gifts.

If you want to give them something that will endure well beyond the day the wrapping is discarded, provide them with the gift of a great leader. No, this gift isn’t wrapped in a fancy package. There is no one moment of surprise as the ribbon is untied. This gift is parceled out in small ways every day. It won’t break the bank and goes a long way toward increasing employee engagement.

Here are seven great leadership gifts for them:

1: Give them something to own.

You may not be able to give your people an equity stake in the business, but you can let them take ownership over a task, project, process, or client relationship. Great leaders know that ownership breeds commitment. This gift is not blindly given. Instead, much care goes into the selection. It involves assessing the risk, considering capabilities, determining how best to support, coaching as needed, and extending ownership. Allowing your people to own something, often called psychological ownership, goes a long way toward building commitment and engagement.

2: Give them something or someone to trust.

Great leaders know that trust impacts everything they do. While high trust can inspire creativity and engagement, low trust erodes relationships, results, and commitment. Great leaders know that trust is not a present easily given. It can’t be wrapped up and handed out once a year. It’s an ongoing effort grounded not in words but in behavior.

3: Give them a vision worth their effort.

Great leaders paint a clear picture of the team’s purpose and the organization’s direction. They don’t merely strive to maintain the status quo, nor do they react to every stimulus. Instead, they inspire people to understand the ‘why’ behind their actions. These leaders know that the team can overcome any obstacle if the ‘why’ is big enough.

4: Give them systems that work.

Great leaders create systems that help people win. They don’t require three signatures for approval when one will suffice. They don’t ask their people to produce reports that no one will read or hold meetings that add little value. They don’t create systems that require unneeded care and feeding. Misaligned systems are sure ways to drain people’s energy and zap their engagement.

5: Give them a voice in the process.

Great leaders know that people want to be heard. So, they ask for input, encourage people to share, and consider employee comments. This doesn’t mean that the leader acts on every team member’s suggestion. It means that they give people the chance to be heard and the respect to listen.

6: Give them a chance to be a better version of themselves.

Great leaders create an environment where their people can learn, grow, and develop. They don’t limit development to a few ‘chosen’ people or invest in training that gives an immediate return on investment. Instead, they play the long game and work with people to understand where they are, where they want to go, and the best way to support making it happen.

7: Give them the ability to win (and win big).

Great leaders know that people want to win. They want to know that work matters. Unfortunately, too many people come to work each day hoping to survive the next meeting, avoid messing up, or escape the workday unscathed. These folks aren’t playing to win – they are playing not to lose. Great leaders know that winning matters. Winning pushes individuals, teams, and organizations forward. Winning often begets winning, so they create opportunities for their people to win.

Go ahead; buy your team members gift cards, write them a note, or wrap up a well-chosen present. Then, after the moment’s thrill passes, commit yourself to giving your people the gift of a great leader. Yes, it will require you to change your behavior, shift your mindset, or pick up a few new skills, but in the long run, everyone wins.

Ten years from now, your people won’t remember the gift you gave them for a special occasion, but they will remember and treasure what it felt like to be well-led.

Don’t deny them – or yourself – that gift!