last minute gift ideas

3 Meaningful, Last Minute Gifts for the Hidden Leaders in Your Life

Last minute gift shopping doesn’t have to be stressful. Sometimes, the gifts we save for last are the ones we want to be the most meaningful and thoughtful. Then we are left scrambling to find something that is personalized with only a few days to spare. Are you in a rush to find a gift for an inspiring person? Are you hoping to find something that stands out from the traditional and expected? Try these ideas below. They add inspirational value and ideas–instead of just taking up space.

A Book with a Personalized Inscription

You may have read about the charming Icelandic tradition of gifting books on Christmas Eve and then spending the rest of the evening reading. Not only does this sound like the coziest thing you could do on a winter night, it also sounds like the perfect gift idea.

Gifting books to others is such a powerful thing, and I really don’t think I do it enough. And I think the reason we avoid choosing books as gifts is because it’s so hard to choose a book for someone. It’s difficult unless we really, really know what the person enjoys reading and hasn’t already read.

But don’t let this stop you from wrapping a brand new book as a last-minute gift option. If you include personal inscription on the inside cover, these memorable words will be treasured no matter which book you choose. Here are some ideas to make the selection part a little bit easier. A big bonus for last-minute shoppers: With Amazon Prime, you can order these titles as late as mid-week and still have them in time for the holidays.

Here are my favorite titles for gifting and why I gave them to the hidden leaders in my life:

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I believe there is a writer in all of us, even if we never show our words to anyone. Stephen King’s memoir on his own writing life both teaches and inspires the reader to see life differently. On it’s own, it’s a mesmerizing tale. As a manual on writing, it doles out blunt advice on writing rituals, the art of writing dialogue, how to survive failure, and much, much more.

On Christmas of 2006, I wrapped this book and put it under the tree for my husband. Newly married, without kids, and just emerging in his career, I knew he had a big vision but was making some tough decisions about what really mattered to him. I wrote on the inside cover,

I wish you a life full of brilliant ideas and the courage to write them down. Never give up on people, on life, or on writing.


Gift this book to someone who is trying something new or is on the fence about being a writer, a leader, an artist…anything that is hard but worth it.

Note: Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life is another amazing title you could pair with this one to make a little inspirational package. Her wise advice on writer’s block, jealousy and discipline provides comfort and inspiration to those who are overwhelmed by the enormity of an important task, such as writing.


2. on our bookshelves


Last summer I sent Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly to a colleague who was unaware of her own potential. I mailed the book and wrote a note to the effect of, “I believe in you.” That’s exactly what you are saying to someone when you choose this book as a gift. With a simple inscription to the recipient, this book will inspire all year long with the message of embracing vulnerability and being courageous in the face of imperfection.

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I actually gifted this book to myself one year. I simply could not resist the title: The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun. This book is the perfect holiday gift because it leads the reader through a yearlong journey starting in January. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving. I actually did get cleaner closets out of this, and they made me so happy that I read this book and this website and then started to embrace minimalism.

Whether you gift this book or keep it for yourself, it will bring more happiness to the people that matter to you. If it’s going onto your own nightstand, you might even write an inscription to yourself. In a few years, you will be happy that you did.

Looking for more ideas? Here are 9 more titles that a hidden leader in your life might want to read.

Bonus gift: Include some chocolate with any book that you choose. Icelanders do this too, and it makes their book-giving season extra sweet.

The Gift of Empty Space: A Notebook, Journal or Planner

You cannot go wrong with a beautifully empty journal or planner for the recipient to fill with their thoughts and musings. This gift says, “You have amazing ideas—you really should write them down!” This gift provides a place to cultivate a voice, a way to set goals for the upcoming year, and a safe, personal space to take risks with a voice that may currently be hidden.

Search for one that reflects their personality on the cover, or go for a more neutral choice. Tie a ribbon around whichever one you choose, and give a friend the gift of empty space.

A Handwritten Letter of Gratitude

When I was teaching in the classroom, I received everything from Starbucks gift certificates to tree ornaments. I loved them all, including a ceramic gingerbread woman with my maiden name, Ms. Faucher, etched into it. I hang it every year on the tree and remember my early years as an educator.

However, the gifts that I treasure most, even 10 years later, are the personal letters and notes. There is really no greater gift than a hand-written letter that expresses gratitude—for anyone in your life.

While you don’t even need to go shopping to give this meaningful, last minute gift, you can make your words extra special by expressing them on a locally drawn holiday card. Check Etsy for artists that customize notecard designs, or shop a local boutique for the perfect card. You can show gratitude to a loved one as well as support the work of your local artists.

last minute gifts

Photo Credit: Local artist Colby Custis designs beautiful holiday cards on her Etsy shop, Custis Prints.

There is still time to shop for the hidden leaders in your life, and these last-minute gifts will be as inspiring to give as they are to receive.

Want to add a unique gift idea for hidden leaders to this list? Did you receive an inspiring gift that made you feel like a leader? Please comment below with your ideas!