Earlier in my career, I worked for firms in which the middle and senior management folks are in nice corner offices and not accessible for their constituents. This created a sense of mystique that when you made it to that level you have your privacy. In the years that I’ve worked there, I’ve seen the owner of the company a few times, but never had any interaction with him. Back then I would not dare to set up an appointment, because I didn’t think that he would meet with me, not to mention I’d not seen any of my peers meeting with him. When I wandered down the executive side of the building, the secretary often asked, “Why are you here?”
In my over 23 years of experience in the Information Technology field, I spent almost seven years in consulting. During that period, I had the same experience in which senior management folks were not accessible. In fact, they did not acknowledge their constituents when they walked the hallway. It led me to believe that is the way things are when you make it to the top. In my opinion, it looked lonely up there.
When I joined Prudential in 2000, my experience changed, as our Senior Vice President would walked the hall and talked to their constituents. He would stop by to ask how you’re doing and talk to people. He showed interest in his people and was accessible, a huge departure from my many years of experience. Because of the dot net boom, I was located in the hallway. One day he stopped by and spoke to me. I was surprised by that experience and was not sure what to make of it. Over the next few years I worked for him and blossomed in every role that he assigned me to work in. It is indeed the best 7 years of my career.
What I learned was that leaders who are in tune with their constituents are able to motivate and mobilize their people. It shows they care about their people; therefore their people are willing to go above and beyond. We are challenged like any other firm that I worked for, but I felt a sense of allegiance and connection to our overall vision. In many ways, I model my leadership style from him. He is a mentor to many people in the organization and always in developing people around him. He challenged everyone, but also provides you with the help and support to enable you to succeed.
Having experienced both types of leaders, I can say that it is better to be an accessible leader. Your constituents need to see that you are there for them and support them no matter the situation. I’ve made it a point to let my folks know that I have an open-door policy and that I’m there for them. The reality is that I cannot address all their challenges or issues, but I can guarantee that I’ll be there to listen. I apply active listening to let them know I’m there for them. Thank you to Bob, who made a difference in my career. I would not be where I am without his influence. It is the very reason that I dedicate my career to help others as my way of paying it forward.
Do you believe that an accessible leader is better in leading an organization? Let me know your thoughts.