'A good leader is a visible leader'

Managers should never hide behind emails, says Debra Allcock Tyler

Debra Allcock Tyler, chief executive, Directory of Social Change
Debra Allcock Tyler, chief executive, Directory of Social Change

There have been many times during my career in the voluntary sector when I've wished I was invisible. Sometimes so I could overhear what people really thought; sometimes because I'd said something controversial; and sometimes because I was just having a really bad hair day.

But one thing I have always understood is that people need to see their leaders. It's not emails or your photo in the newsletter that convinces your staff that you know what you're doing and can be trusted. It's seeing you, day in, day out, round and about.

So stop muttering that you are spending so much time in meetings that you can't get the work done. When you're in a leadership position, the meetings are the work. Work happens through conversation. That's where you get the information you need to take the right actions: through speaking and listening; through people being able to see the sincerity and commitment in each other's faces; through the arguments and counter-arguments you get when you're all in a room together.

The paperwork is what you do in your own time. You need to be in places where you can be seen. Walking around and going to someone's desk when you have a question for them really is a powerful way of inspiring and guiding people.

And it's not just about being visible at work. Most of us also need to show our mugs in the external world. We need others to know about us and our organisations. And the most effective way to achieve that is for people to meet you, so they can put a name to a face and a face to a cause.

Which means, frankly, that you do need to turn up to the opening of an envelope. Because there's a good chance that the letter-opener might be the one contact you need to transform the fortunes of your charity.

- Debra Allcock Tyler is chief executive of the Directory of Social Change and a trustee of MedicAlert

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