“The power of authentic leadership is found not in the external arrangements, but in the human heart.” – Parker J. Palmer
Being approachable is an important factor when it comes to building relationships with colleagues. Relationships that are characterised by trust, confidence, and where ideas can be generated. When a leader is approachable, team members will not cover up problems and they will feel free to bring issues out to their leaders. Team members who have approachable leaders feel safe in their working environment and can contribute to the team and organisation. They know that their ideas and suggestions will not be knocked down by their leaders.
Leaders are often given the image that in order to be successful, they need to be separate from their team members. There is a power-distance between them and their team members – it can however be intimidating to approach this type of leader. Leaders often act this way to maintain their authority. Leaders who create separation and segregation completely miss the mark when it comes to accessibility.
Robin Camarote stated that being more approachable is important because it puts people at ease and enable people to think and do their best in your presence. Being approachable is an essential professional skill as you move up the corporate ladder. Think about it, you as team member expect your leader to be approachable and open to listen to you.
When we consider the changes that happened in the working environment, we should also keep in mind that leadership then and leadership now is not the same. The old top-down management style does not have a significant place anymore. People want to be fully engaged and committed to what they are doing. Team members want to feel that their work actually means something, and that the leader is someone they can believe in.
Authentic leaders are aware of their limitations, their strengths, and their emotions. They do not have a different work and home personality but are true to themselves and to the people that follow them. Authentic leaders lead with their hearts and are mission and result-driven. They do not chase after riches to get more money, power and an ego-boost.
Authentic leaders are known for being good communicators. They use various communication strategies to communicate to team members and to communicate their values and inspire their team. An important aspect of communication that authentic leadership understand, is that communication is a give and take activity. They actively listen and accept others’ communication, no matter where it comes from or from whom. According to Dr Nick Morgan, being authentic is one of the most important communication challenges for leaders. Morgan said, “authenticity means becoming open and connecting with somebody, which allows you to speak from the heart”.
What can leaders do to be more approachable and authentic?
Camarote suggests five things leaders can do to be more approachable. They are:
- Make the first move. As a leader you need to initiate the contact, it will show others that you are opening up the door to communication. By sitting at your desk waiting for others to approach you will get you nowhere.
- Listen carefully. By showing your team members that you pay attention to what they are saying will open up future opportunities for them to approach you. If you listen carefully to what others say and especially to what issues they raise and how you respond to it, will make team members feel that you are invested in them.
- One cannot receive with a hand that is closed. If you are willing to share, you are likely to get something back. Share your perspective and invite others to participate. By sharing things about yourself makes it easier for others to relate to you.
- Make it professionally personal. Finding common ground makes it easier to connect with people. Everywhere in the business environment, there are potential connections between people.
- Note your non-verbals. The things you communicate without speaking plays an important part in a conversation. You cannot end a conversation by looking at your phone. Keep it in mind next time you are talking to team members.
- Keep a running list of questions to ask. By having a list of questions to ask can lead to valuable conversations regarding business issues. Questions such as “How do you see that idea working?”
Awareness of the importance of authenticity is the starting point to be more approachable.
Lolly Daskal explained that by separating yourself as a leader from a team, you miss the mark of what accessibility is all about. As an executive leadership coach, she recommends the following to be more approachable.
- Put people at ease. Making people feel at ease a trait of authentic leadership. When people feel at ease they can work together, connect, and communicate without the fear of exposing themselves.
- Stay curious. Stay open and be curious. Ask questions, there is always room to learn something new.
- Be a sounding board. It is important to understand that people will approach you as a leader with good and bad news. Show compassion and empathy and show that people can always come to you
- Earn total trust. As a leader, you have access to a lot of valuable information. It is vital to be ethical and work intellectually with this information to give you team members reasons to trust you.
- Lead from within. Leadership is to get the best out of your people. Focus on being approachable as your governing trait as a leader.
Being authentic and approachable as a leader opens the communication channel between leaders and team members. It is time to rethink the leadership that is needed in today’s working environment. It is time to look beyond people working with and for you and look at the human being in front of you and within you. Be true to yourself, know yourself. How else will you be able to inspire others if you do not understand yourself?