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Show Up: Being Visible as a Leader

Effective leaders know that it's not enough to do the work. You have to be seen doing the work.
Group of people gathered around a gesturing seated speaker

By Chally Kacelnik

We hear a lot from frontline workers about the visibility of their leaders. For instance:

  • The CEO needs to get out of the ivory tower office more and come see what we actually do
  • My leader makes bad decisions because he has no idea what goes on on site
  • It was a real highlight having the CEO turn up to the barbecue and actually talk about what we’ve accomplished
  • We have not been visited once since she entered the role six months ago
  • I really liked that the GM came down to the depot, just to see us and have a chat

Many – and I mean many – leaders do not understand the importance of these statements and impact of their visibility, or lack thereof. It is routinely a major difference between teams that are motivated, inspired, and engaged with their work and teams that are passive, disengaged, or actively engaged in undermining the organisation and its leadership. It is a major difference between whether an organisation’s leadership is seen as open and honest, or the opposite.

Effective leaders know that it’s not enough to do the work. You have to be seen doing the work.

This is particularly difficult and crucial at the moment, when a global pandemic is keeping us very much apart. This is a time when many people are scared, uncertain of the economy and what their jobs (if they’re holding on to them) will look like in the future. A lot of organisations are having to radically change how they do business. Especially now, visibility is something that needs to be done well in order to survive and strengthen organisations. Being available and engaged fosters the senses of trust and honesty that are vital, so find ways of doing that – and maybe that’s through a livestreamed town hall right now. What’s important and felt are the effort and recognition.

Some leaders feel as though “face time” is time they cannot spare, time away from “real work”. This is the real work.

  • What it says is that you recognise that you acknowledge and value the work that is done at the front lines, which is genuinely and usefully connected to the work you yourself do
  • What it does is to keep people engaged with the work of the organisation and with building a positive culture through shared positive beliefs about the organisation: our leaders care about us and understand the value of what we do. If you’re visible, they’re more likely to feel willing and able to come to you with improvement ideas – and false negative narratives about whatever it is you’re doing are less likely to fester
  • Lastly, it keeps you connected with the reality of what’s going on and the actual impact – good or bad – of the decisions you are making

Show up. Make the time to be visible. You’ll be a more effective leader and foster a more positive and productive organisation.

At LKS Quaero, we help leaders to become exceptional ones. Visit us at lksquaero.com or follow us on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter.

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