Overview: To lead effectively, leaders must be approachable. Approachable leaders have their fingers on the pulses of their organizations. They know the needs of employees and the challenges they face. To become more approachable, leaders can become better communicators that are keen to share feedback. They can be more curious about reports and unafraid to show vulnerability.
Being approachable and easy to engage is a great asset in life and business. It’s also indispensable in leadership.
Leadership is about inspiring people and building meaningful relationships. Unapproachable leaders can’t lead. They can’t pass feedback back and forth with teams, they don’t get timely access to essential information, and they make life difficult for reports.
We’re not equally sociable. Introverted people prefer to withdraw and handle matters on their own. Introverted leaders may be tempted to attribute auras of authority to their unapproachability. Some may equate approachability with small talk and consider it a waste of time.
To lead effectively, however, they must overcome such tendencies. Leadership coaching knows that only approachable leaders can optimally engage, motivate, and inspire people.
What can leaders do to make themselves more approachable? How can leadership coaching help them?
Poor communication is an oft-cited reason behind leaders’ unapproachability. Leaders who don’t engage team members seem disinterested. Not showing any natural curiosity, such leaders come across as authoritarians for whom the problems of the “little guy” are nothing more than nuisances.
Communication is the lifeblood of leadership. Executive coaching can help leaders use it to become more approachable, relatable, and inspirational. Here’s what leaders can do to improve communication and become more approachable:
- Greet everyone, thus showing that everyone matters
- Make eye contact with people and show genuine curiosity toward them
- Use people’s names within the limits of reason
- Listen actively and give people their undivided attention
Leadership vulnerability is an essential intelligent leadership skill. Vulnerability can significantly increase leaders’ approachability. In this context, leaders can show vulnerability in two ways:
- Share failures and admit shortcomings
- Ask for help
By sharing their failures and weaknesses, leaders position themselves on equal footing with their reports. They swallow their pride and admit to everyone they don’t have all the answers.
When they ask for help, leaders allow others to shine. They also gain valuable input from people who are perhaps more competent in certain matters.
Approachable leaders understand the significance and utility of two-way feedback. Giving others constructive feedback builds trust and motivates people. Receiving feedback and (if necessary) asking for it allows leaders to assess the unintended impacts they have on others.
Leadership coaching professionals can provide leaders with options to remain assertive while being open to feedback. Leaders can tell employees they must focus on projects until X o’clock, after which they’re available for exchanging feedback. This way, leaders can ensure their assertiveness doesn’t come at the cost of their approachability.
Honesty and Optimism
Intelligent leaders know they must always communicate honestly with followers. Accurately describing the extent of a crisis doesn’t require pessimism. On the contrary, great leaders express optimism in the ability of their teams to successfully navigate crises.
From the perspective of executive coaching, approachable leaders can lend their teams motivation and support by letting employees know they’ll do everything imaginable to make their work easier and their objectives simpler to accomplish.
Approachable leaders are genuinely curious about the lives of employees at work and at home.
Like leadership coaches, approachable leaders ask questions. Asking relevant questions allows people to conduct meaningful interactions and build solid relationships.
People respond to curiosity and always appreciate those curious enough to learn about their opinions, preferences, and problems.
Approachable leaders treat the information others share with them with the utmost care and confidentiality. Trust is the hard currency of leadership; no leader can afford to squander it.
Once they establish their approachability, leaders can build on it. By showing appreciation to the people who go to them with their problems, they provide added motivation and encourage further engagement.