How to Lead When You Don’t Have Time

Posted by Aaron Buer on December 3, 2020

Question: How do you lead others when you don’t feel like you have time to do your job?

During this season, we’ve all had to flex and pivot into new roles and skills out of necessity.

And yet, for those of us who exercise leadership—you manage a few employees or oversee a bunch of volunteers—while we pivot, stretch, flex, and swivel in our own job, we ALSO need to provide decent leadership for the people under our care.

I’m guessing some of you just felt a pang of guilt because you feel like you have dropped the ball here. Ugh.  

Of all the things you do, if you are a leader, investing in the people under your care should be near the top of your list.

You can’t afford to not lead your people.

So, how do you do that when you don’t feel like you have time?

Let’s talk. I have some ideas.


The backbone of leading others is regularly scheduled time together.

Leadership happens best through conversations.

So, if you want to lead others, you’ll have to invest here.

One-on-ones is where you get to know the person you are leading personally.

This is where you encourage, listen, coach, and problem solve.

This is the space where the people under your care come to believe you are for them.  

If you’re super busy, a good target here is a bi-weekly meeting. An hour is ideal.

If you can’t make that happen, invest what you can. Thirty minutes is better than nothing.  

Maybe you don’t manage employees, but you oversee volunteers.

Instead of a meeting, shoot for a check-in conversation.

If I were one of your volunteers, a ten-minute conversation every other week would feel like great leadership.  

But what should you say? What should you do in this meeting or conversation? Here’s a suggestion:


This is a strategy I learned from one of my leadership mentors: Ask the people you lead to give you two or three work priorities they’ll be focused on for the next two months.

Then, provide  them with feedback on their goals to make sure they are aligned with your church’s overall goals, and then keep them accountable to their own goals each time you meet.  

That’s it. Seriously, an effective one-one-one can be as simple as:  

  1. How are you doing this week?  
  2. How are you coming with your goals?  
  3. Anything I can help you with this week?  

It’s personal. It’s focused. It’s helpful. 

This framework works well for employees, volunteers…honestly, even kids. Try it!

Personal Development

If you lead others, something you might be feeling is, “I wish I had time to develop them.”

Maybe you don’t have to do it alone. Maybe someone else can help.

There are excellent resources out there that can help when you don’t have hours and hours to pour into a development plan.

Three ideas:  

  1. The High Impact Leader Course
  2. Craig Groeschel’s Leadership Podcast
  3. Patrick Lencioni Books

The options are practically limitless here.

Maybe your church or denomination has options that would fit your context better than my suggestions. Go with those!

My point is simply this: You don’t have to provide the development content. You only need to provide the leadership relationship.

Planned Neglect

One last idea.

Some of you are still thinking, “This is cool and all, but I still don’t have time to lead others.”

Could I challenge you on that? You can’t afford to not invest in your people.

If you don’t, you’ll sacrifice the scope of your church’s ministry effectiveness.

One of my favorite phrases is “planned neglect.”

To invest in others, you will need to plan to neglect something else.

It’s a strategic “no” to something that isn’t as important as leading the people under your care.

What do you need to say “no” to in this season? What will you plan to neglect so you can invest in the people God has given you to lead?

I know what’s on my list during this season. What’s on yours?

Wrap Up

I hope these suggestions have been helpful.

If you have other suggestions you’ve found to work well for you, we’d love to hear them.

Please share them in the comments below.

Topics: Advice

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