The Approachable Leader

If you’re a very high level leader in a mid to large size organization you live a good part of your life in a bubble. The higher in your organization you are the bigger, and stronger, the bubble.

You may disagree with that but that’s because you live in a bubble, apparently the bubble can’t be seen from the inside but it is pretty obvious to anyone looking at it from the outside.

The bubble causes lots of issues for leaders. Generally speaking the bubble makes it more challenging to be an effective leader. That’s because not only can you not see the bubble, you can’t see the haze the bubble puts around everything you do see. The bubble also muffles the voices of a good many people you talk with.

Now, it’s not anything that a leader does that causes the bubble. A bit of the bubble is caused by people’s almost natural fear of being themselves around what I’ll call an “authority figure.” When you’re the boss you have a measure of control over a big part of your people’s lives and that tends to make a lot of them a bit skittish.

The biggest cause of the bubble however is what leaders don’t do. They don’t take concrete steps to escape the bubble or better yet, simply destroy the bubble entirely. They do not make themselves an approachable leader.

So, how does a leader get outside the bubble or eliminate it completely?

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Transparent, consistent, honest, open, frequent, wide-ranging, real, two-way communication. Communication is a great way to bring downs walls and burst bubbles. There are many ways to effectively communicate these days, even if your team is very large.

Nothing will ever replace face-to face conversations. No matter what anybody says, nothing will replace the personal touch. So as I suggest a couple of alternatives to live, personal interactions please understand that I’m not suggesting you use these instead of personal communication, I’m suggesting to use these along with your frequent human interactions.

Write a company or organization blog. Don’t have it written, write it yourself. Seriously, a blog post saying hey, here’s what happening lately should take less than 30 minutes to write. Once or twice a month is enough and a reply or two can be done on the fly.

Obviously you can’t share proprietary information or make anyone an inside trader but you can stay more visible. The reality today is that people read blogs, your people will most certainly read yours. You can share your weekend plans, tell a story about your family, discuss a topic in the news. You may wonder why your people would care but know this: they do. You had better hope they do because if they don’t care about you as a person they can’t care about you as a leader. Let them know you’re human, just like them.

Do a weekly Podcast. A two or three minute podcast with current information and a shot of motivation delivered straight to your team’s email each Monday morning. Again, it’s purely conversational, personal and connecting. A two or three minute podcast shouldn’t take much longer to record than, well than, two or three minutes.

Both of these ideas require time. The question is does interacting with your people seem like an expense of your time or an investment of your time? As a leader, remaining close to the people who make-up your organization is priceless. It costs so little yet means so much.

This is an investment that will pay returns almost immediately, and unlike most investments this one is almost a sure thing. Why wouldn’t a leader make this investment today?

10 thoughts on “The Approachable Leader

  1. Great post Steve.

    I can’t speak for everyone. What I do know is that work is an extension of ‘family’ to me. It’s difficult to work in an environment filled with people that you don’t care about and frankly, it’s difficult NOT to care about at least some of the people we spend so much time with day in and day out.

    Perhaps that’s part of the necessary shift..instead of the old master/slave, control and command way of viewing a company or organization, leaders can shift to view it as a great big family. Or small….if the company is small.

    People who feel cared about really do tend to protect their ‘family’. That means more people will naturally work to have the best interests of the entire org or business at heart.

    It needs to be ok to care. Otherwise people are just cogs in a wheel. A means to an end. Dehumanizing.

    And people who are dehumanized can feel it.

    Thanks for sharing Steve.

    1. Indeed, lack of communication and lack of caring builds silos and kills productivity. It’s just not a “fun” place to work. When work feels like family, even if only some of the people are family, it’s just more enjoyable. That makes it easier to do better work and more of it.

  2. No better way to communicate hit vision than to…… Communicate your vision. Great post and I hope it is read often. Theses are Some simple steps that can go a long way.

  3. Great post…..I am currently interviewing for a President / CEO position it makes me wonder if the former President / CEO failed in this area??

    1. Many do miss on this one. No CEO wants to believe they have lost touch with their people but it happens often. It happens slowly and when you’re “inside” you just don’t realize it. Good luck with your interview and if you find yourself in the c-suite don’t stay in there too long, the walls get kinda thick the longer you’re separated from your people.

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