Pay Attention To “Unimportant” People

How we treat "unimportant" people is a window into our character.


As a young lieutenant in the Army, I watched one of my commanders consistently walk by his soldiers without ever acknowledging their “hello’s.” Sometimes he was late to a meeting. Other times he wandered by with plenty of time on his hands. It didn’t matter the situation, he ignored anyone whom he deemed “unimportant.” On the other hand, when a higher-ranking officer came near, he always engaged his superior and became extremely attentive. Needless to say, he was not well liked by his soldiers or lieutenants.


I knew this officer was not a leader I wanted to emulate because I watched my father, The General, treat everyone—and I mean everyone—with respect, regardless of their position in society. Army privates, servers at restaurants or day laborers all received his attention. Their “importance” did not matter to him.


I’ve watched my favorite leaders act in the same way. One of my bosses consistently asked me, “What obstacles can I move out of your way today?” He focused on what he could do for me and not on what he wanted me to do for him. Every time he asked me that question, I grew more committed to doing the best work for him that I could. Why? Because he did his best for me. His willingness to put my needs before his own needs, desires or convenience made me want to follow him and grow to be like him.


The example my father and those leaders set for me reminds me to pay attention to everyone. Nobody is unimportant. Everyone deserves my respect and my time.


Think of the people in your life who consistently operate with this same mindset. They exercise Selflessness regularly. I bet these are people you trust. I bet these are people who step up to help. I bet these are probably some of the most positive people you know. Bottom line is, I bet these are the people you would follow.


Your character is the sum total of your habits—your good habits and your bad habits. Selflessness is a habit. Pay attention to how others treat someone who is “unimportant.” If they ignore those people, you probably have a good window into their character. Likewise, when you observe others give their time and attention to everyone they meet—you know you have found a Leader of Character.


Dig Deep Questions:

  • How do you treat your waitress, your cashier, your ticket agent or strangers?

  • Who do you know who treats everyone as worthy of their time and attention? What stands out about their example?

Making a shift towards taking responsibility and living with Selflessness is a lifelong journey. We want to partner with you as you practice the habit of Selflessness daily, which is why we have created our Habits of Character Action Guides.


The Selflessness Action Guide offers you a month of daily, interactive training complete with a daily reading, dig deep questions, weekly processing guides and instructions on how to use the guide both individually and with your team. The Selflessness Action Guide is now available here.


We are behind you, championing for you, your teams and your organizations as you become the leader you wish you had. We want to come alongside you as you grow to confidently answer “yes” to the question, “Would you follow you?”

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