Friday, July 10, 2009

leaders should be seen...

Remember that phrase your mother used to always say that children should be seen and not heard (I think for me it was often that children should be neither seen nor heard). I have come to believe that leaders must be seen in order to be credible. If leadership is about influence...and if leadership is about people...and if leadership is about vision...then leaders need to be seen.

I can think of several people I know in leadership positions that I never see. It's not that I don't think they're doing a bad job (though I would be hard pressed to describe for the job they are doing); it's not that I think they are bad peoople (though I would be hard pressed to describe their personality); it's not that I don't think they have the ability to lead (though I would be hard pressed to tell you what they are leading); it's not that I think they don't care about people (though the phrase "they don't care how much you know until they know how much you care" comes to mind); it's not that I don't think they can lead (though I would be hard pressed to tell you about their style of leadership); and it's not that they can't produce results, because they have (though I never get to celebrate the results with them either personally or publicly).
So why is being seen important? Here are a few thoughts:
  1. Leaders lead people...if they are not seen, how can they know people AND how can peple know them
  2. Leaders influence people...being able to share ideas in an informal setting (and formal setting) is incredibly important toward influencing others
  3. Influence is built through becomes harder to trust someone whom I never see than if I can have regular interaction with them
  4. Followers want to be reassured they are important...leaders walking around and commenting on what others are doing helps to instill that sense of importance in people
  5. Leaders need new perspectives...hanging out with people allows for new ideas to be heard, discussed and debated

So as leaders, let's get out of the office and walk around our institutions - on a regular basis.

  • Need a cup of coffee? Walk to another area of the building to get one
  • Need another cup of coffee? Take the long route and force yourself to walk past other's offices
  • Need yet a third cup of coffee? Have it while visiting with someone in another department
  • Schedule regular meetings with people outside your immediate area
  • Show up at events and mingle with people
  • Don't wait for someone else to say hello - be the first to meet and greet
  • Schedule a time to walk the grounds - and change up your routine from day to day
  • Find a way to delegate your desk duties to someone else so you do not feel rushed when talking with others

Leaders should be seen...and if you take this to heart, I will be looking forward to SEEING you on a more regular basis.


MissM said...

I totally agree. I think being seen falls under the category of "symbolic leadership" - how you behave, and how you are perceived has a huge impact on your effectiveness as a leader. Staying behind a closed door all day sends one message - walking around and talking to people in an open and relaxed message sends a very different one.

Shar McBee said...

Well put!

It is usually a brief period when we can influence people. When the moment wanes, I think it is best to withdraw and give people a chance to consider your advice. If you push or hover, you'll lose the opportunity to influence them again.

Shar McBee, author of TO LEAD IS TO SERVE: How to Attract Volunteers & Keep Them