One of the key differences I’ve found between a great leader and someone who is just in charge is how they affect the people around them. I’ve found real leaders lift-up and collaborate with those around them. Strong leaders know that they don’t have all the answers, and so they empower others and encourage them to share their strengths and ideas. On your quest to greatness, to really lift up those around you, add the habit of being approachable to your arsenal of leaderships skills.
As with other habits we’ve talked about, effective leaders have embodied many of these characteristics in their core being. You would most likely say, “Bob is an amazing leader, he’s just so approachable,” rather than, “Bob is such a fantastic leader, he makes himself approachable.” There’s a subtle difference, but it’s there; although Bob does make himself approachable, he lives and breathes this concept so that he becomes someone who is approachable – Bob is a great leader. In other words, you should strive to become authentically approachable, not just to act that way. Habits eventually become who we are, so if you’re not approachable yet, or your approachability needs some work, then start taking simple, consistent actions over time until they become who you are.
Showing a genuine smile (at appropriate times, of course) is a very simple, yet solid way to become more approachable. Producing an authentic smile affects your physiology and can actually make you happier while others will experience it as less intimidating and more inviting. Some people think smiling is a sign of weakness, but in fact, it’s just the opposite. Regularly producing a serious mask to keep an air of authority about you is a fear based approach. There’s obviously a time and a place for seriousness and smiling, but if you can welcome others with a warm, honest smile, you’ll start to notice people respond differently to you.
On your journey to leadership mastery, make it known that challenges, criticism and alternative points of view aren’t only welcomed, but they’re encouraged. This action will transform the synergy of your working environment while improving teams you work with and the organization’s overall effectiveness.
Powerful leaders set a standard that welcomes open communication. If others feel they can approach you about any topic, then there’s virtually nothing that’s off limits for discussion. If people have a clear pathway to being able to easily bring up any issue up with you and discuss the matter openly, without any irrational consequences, this begins to foster win-win outcomes and strengthens your relationships. Being approachable creates trust and collaboration in the workplace.
Again, by you becoming approachable, the effect will trickle down to those who work with you. As a leader, you have an influence on the culture of your organization, you are the architect of how people see, feel, and function in this setting we call work, and by creating a more approachable environment, you’ll increase your communication and overall efficiency in your company. Stay tuned for the next posts where I’ll discuss the habit of hard work and how for a leader, it can look different than you might expect.