Of all the SERVANT Leadership traits, this has to be one of the most difficult to address. Why? Well, this is one of those traits that has to have an absolute balance, there’s no wiggle room. First, let’s look at some of the characteristics of an Accessible Leader :
- One word- COMMUNICATOR
- Responds to every voice mail or email
- As a leader, they have a passion and focus to recognize all attempts to communicate with them.
- This is the leader who will respond to emails or send out emails late at night or early in the morning
- Driven by the need felt for their advice on a subject-which is one of the reasons they are so addicted to responding to everyone.
- Out of a crowd, this person will often be cornered for long periods of time by individuals wanting to speak with them.
Accessible Leaders are most likely going to be your most visible; after all, they love people! Chances are, your most Accessible Leader are considered Yellows on the Colorful Masterpiece scale. (If you are unfamiliar with this, please refer to the Colorful Masterpiece series or click here.) One of the great aspects or traits of an Accessible Leader is that they seem to have a pretty good idea of what is going on in their organization and more importantly, on their team. You know these types! They have the blackberry in their hand typing a message while listening to a group conversation to be able to make a comment and all the while, making a note to themselves to follow up with someone else about that “thing” they were to discuss. Whoa… did your head spin during all of that?
Granted, there are some people who are great at this and have it mastered. Chances are, if you are reading this, you do not do so well in this area. Perhaps you are one who is owned by your communication time lines and gadgets. If you are unsure, let me ask you this question, does it kill you to know that there are emails you have not yet answered? Or how about this. If you were to lose your PDA or messaging device, would you lose your mind until you get back on track or would you simply take your time and be cool about it? If the mere questions before this sent a chill up your spine or caused a spike in your heart rate, chances are, you are addicted to your communication. This is the result of an Accessible Leader being “too accessible.”
And for those of you laughing at the readers categorized above, now it is your turn. If you are not bothered as much or at all when you are unable to return an email or answer someone’s question, this is not the best thing either. As a leader, you need to have a great communication avenue not only with your peers, but more importantly, with your staff. One of the greatest causes of discontent in the workplace are employees who feel as if they work for the Wizard of Oz. (you know, the man behind the curtain with the big voice) It is always good to have a stable balance with honoring your position but also remembering who you are to serve as a leader.
If you were to grade yourself in this area and would declare this was your lowest score on a self assessment, I would consider implementing some of the following:
- This is a tricky one because you want to be accessible and approachable to all, but not to the point that you strangle other needed qualities.
- Set an attainable bar or expectations for follow up and interaction with your staff first, and then with everyone else. This could be something as simply as a before 2pm = Sundown Rule. Simply put, if someone leaves you a voice mail or sends and email, you will return it by sundown that same day. Even if this means you simply call/say/email, “I will get back to you, today has been crazy.”
- If group interaction intimidates or scares you, be sure to slowly expose yourself to more situations that will put you outside of your comfort zone.
If we were to ask your team to grade you in this area and this would be the lowest grade on your survey, this could mean a variety of things:
- Your team does not approve of your follow up skills
- Perhaps you are too busy or too “stuffy” or “lofty” in your presence that may discourage your team from speaking with you openly.
- Chain of command is a great thing, especially for a large staff, but you still want to somehow convey that you are approachable.
In the beginning of this post, I mentioned this was the hardest topic of the SERVANT Leadership series. Let me give you a reason in list form. When I was sitting down to write a “top reasons list”, this is what I came up with:
1. Be an Accessible Leader, but do not let your communication style, tactics, needs, etc overtake you.
2. Accessible Leaders need to be approachable, yet they have to have boundries considering time, place, etc
3. The team of an Accessible Leader should feel able to bring topics to the leader, yet still respect the chain of command
4. Leaders cannot simple lead the battle from the hill, but also cannot spend the entire time on the front lines. Learn how to and when to delegate.
5. Being accessible to your team allows you to bond, coach, and observe them, however, it can also consume your day, break your concentration, and monopolize your schedule.
So, if you are truly wanting to be an Accessible Leader, I would stress this more in this topic than others, achieve BALANCE!!!! Again, this is a great trait to have and I would argue, a necessary trait to have if you are to be an effective SERVANT Leader. If we look to Jesus as the ultimate example of being an Accessible Leader, we would find several times where he would separate himself for prayer, but it was after mingling with his flock. He met people on their level and like the woman with the hemorrhage, he gave everyone their moment. For this reason, and for so many more, Jesus had a following. People loved him because he was accessible, but even Jesus put necessary parameters in place. If you are struggling either as or struggling to be more of an Accessible Leader, I would definitely look to Christ, the Perfecter of this and every other great trait.
If you are interested in learning more about the SERVANT Leadership series, please contact Christian Management Consulting. We offer a complete training on this and many more topics. Typically, we provide you with a test to measure your key signatures in each of the SERVANT Leadership areas. A survey would also be sent out to your team/direct reports to provide feedback on your performance and behaviors in all of the SERVANT Leadership areas as well. We will go over the key signatures as well as the positive and negative extremes of each in one-day training with you and other leaders in your area. Once we go over the signatures, from a high level, we will provide you with your results and spend some time going over how to read your personalized chart. We will also provide some time for you to personally review your results and reconvene to go over questions.
Once the training has been completed, Christian Management Consulting will meet with you regularly via phone to discuss your progress and to walk alongside you in this time of development. At the end of six months or one year, we will resend the test to you and your team to measure the changes in your behavior and make modifications to our plan.
This is a great program and a great way for any organization to implement succession strategies and train both their current and up and coming leaders.
About the Writer:
Trent Cotton has spent a number of years in management and business consulting. After spending some time in the field, he joined the HR department, beginning in recruiting and eventually serving as the Department Head of HR for one of the major lines of business. With such a varied background, he works to bring all of these together to help churches and other Christian organizations incorporate some common business practices into their ministries to enable them to better serve the Kingdom. He currently works for SourcePointe, an HR Outsourcing Agency while continuing to own and operate Christian Management Consulting as a ministry. In his free time, he also writes a lot on Church Development as a Church Consultant.
As a husband and father of three, Trent Cotton has a passion surrounding the role Christian Men are to play in their families, communities, churches and businesses. This particular blog is dedicated to helping men take back the role that we have lost in society.