An effective leader is a person who is approachable. You want your employees to feel comfortable coming and talking to you so that you can keep the channels of communication open.
A lot of people have the image of a strong leader being an island unto themselves: tough as nails and someone to be feared. That is an old and redundant image of leadership.
The new type of leader is a person who builds strong relationships so that when they need people to give 100%, the people want to follow this leader.
When talking about approachability, we don’t mean the need to be liked and accepted by people. Having too strong a desire to be everyone’s buddy creates weak leadership. Approachability is having other people feel comfortable bringing either good news or bad news and having their leader listen to them.
One manager I met recently had a very unfriendly, stern expression on his face most of the time – his expression wasn’t warm and inviting even though he is a good person and has a good sense of humor. I suggested that he smile more often which would help people be more comfortable bringing him information.
Being unapproachable is a defence mechanism – it keeps people at a distance.
To become a more approachable leader:
– Show warmth more often – smile and be easy to talk to
– avoid overreacting to bad news
– thank people for bringing information to your attention
– cut down on the sarcasm – be more straightforward
– be consistent in your actions to avoid being seen as moody
As your level of approachability increases you will find the morale, attitude and cooperation level of your team will improve.
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