How Leaders Embrace the Precious Commodity of Time

Written by: Joe Kuhns

An attitude of respect was central to my life as a Navy SEAL.

One of the foundational attributes of a good leader is their respect for people, places, things, and ideas. Navy SEALs are taught to respect not only our teammates and leaders, but also our enemies by not underestimating their ability and their will to survive.

Then there is respect for other cultures and their laws, the Rules of Engagement (ROE), and Mother Nature (she can kill you faster than the enemy sometimes). We even showed respect to our equipment by taking care of it, so it, in turn, could take care of us.

But there is one area of life that some may not think of in terms of respect: Time.

As a Navy SEAL you learn to respect time because it could be the difference between life and death on the battle field. It could mean the difference in mission failure or success. Timelines have to be met precisely or within an allotted time window which is always very small.

Missing a time window could have tragic consequences not just to you and your team but to the supporting units that may be risking their lives by exposing themselves to the enemy in order to pick you up. If you don’t make the rendezvous on time they may have to try again at another pick up point, exposing them again to possible enemy compromise and danger.

Respecting time is serious business.

While the factor of time may not result in life or death situations in your daily routine, it can still have a huge impact on your relationships and your business.

Time is a commodity that we’re all given at the same rate; without exception to race, gender, job, wealth, or I.Q. We may not get the same amount in a lifetime, but we all get 24 hours a day, every day that we are alive. How we choose to use our time is up to us.

That time can be spent wisely, or it can be wasted.

But it is another thing to spend or waste someone else’s time.

When you value and respect other people, one of the simplest and effective ways to communicate that to them is by respecting their time. By not wasting it, you’re communicating that you understand the value of it to you and them. The opposite is also true – wasting other people’s time by being late is a blatant sign of disrespect and recklessness.

Time is something that you can never get back or pay back. That is why as we get older our time becomes more and more valuable to us. If we had only known that when we were younger, it might have changed the way we lived and interacted with others.

My point is this: I will never be late. I was taught that to be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late, and to be late is unforgivable.

Sure, there have been times when I have been late, but I always make it a point to contact whoever’s time I’m on as soon as I know that I will be late due to traffic or some unexpected incident, accident or medical emergency. (This happens very rarely because I plan ahead for road conditions, weather, etc. That’s the Navy SEAL in my blood!)

And if I cannot make the appointment at all, I let the other person know as soon as possible so they can plan to use their time effectively elsewhere. Don’t wait until you’re late to contact them; that is immature, selfish, and irresponsible.

Related: How to Hold Yourself Accountable and Increase the Odds of Accomplishing Your Goals

Being on time is discipline in action.

Being considerate of others and their time is an important key to your character and reputation as a leader. Good leaders do not waste other people’s time. If you want to do one thing that will bring respect to you and your leadership ability, respect the time of everyone that you have contact with, from the CEO to the person on the lowest rung of the ladder.

Do not keep people waiting because of your pride or position. Do not let meetings drag on and keep subordinates from doing their work. People will respect it at all levels, and outsiders who witness this will respect you and your professionalism.

That is the kind of company, institution, and people I want to do business with. I know that if the lowliest member of an organization is treated with respect, then I know I will be respected when it comes to my time.


Remember, respecting time is a habit that you should develop in every aspect of your life in order for it to become a good character trait.

The old saying that “time waits for no man” is a truth to remind us that we are all equal when it comes to time. For those who master the respect of time, it becomes a precious commodity that will open the door to countless relationships and opportunities in all areas of life.