Being visible as a leader is not just about physical presence. It is not just about saying good morning every day, giving praise often or listening closely when you talk with your employees.
These things are not unimportant. But visible leadership demands much more than just small behavioural adjustments that can be measured in minutes and eye contact.
For your employees to truly experience you as a visible leader, you need to be prepared to step forward on all the parameters contained in your leadership. This means that you will have to take a greater variety of factors into consideration than you might think in order to improve the experience of your visibility. It also means you need to contemplate your specific management role; you need to think about how that specific role should preferably be visible in your organisation.
In this article, we summarise the topic of visible leadership in a hands-on way. We will touch upon:
Hard work, great gains
In a broad perspective, visible leadership is about good leadership characteristics in general. And as with everything else pertaining to development, it takes self-knowledge and active reflection to move forward.
It entails hard work but brings about great gains. Highly visible leaders create more trust in a department. They also foster greater independence and more initiatives from the team as well as an increased sense of well-being among the employees. All of this happen because you are visibly taking the lead and being very present or available in areas in which your employees need you.
Visible leadership during the corona crisis
Most recently, the corona crisis has shown that the demand for visible leadership only grows as physical contact with employees decreases. Conversely, the crisis has also demonstrated that it is possible to succeed in being a visible leader even though you do not frequent an office space on the daily.
On one hand, the current prevalence of long-distance management and working from home confirm the value of easy practices such as the daily good morning. At the same time, the altered conditions show that visible leadership goes beyond regular intervals of ordinary contact.
Right now? Well, there is certainly more reason than ever to work on your visibility as a leader.
How to actually become more visible?
When working on your visibility, you can draw inspiration from what characterises the three typical management roles in an organisation: Team manager, middle manager and executive manager. This division should not be taken as completely separate steps. Instead the three roles should be viewed as clusters of traits that exist on all levels but are more pronounced in some roles than others.
For the team manager
In this role, you need to direct most of your energy into being visible and present in everyday work. This role is probably the one most reminiscent of the classical mantra “make time and listen” as a manager. You become visible as a team manager when you succeed in demonstrating through words and actions that you are personally committed to your team and when you spend time discussing problems with them, great and small. Be clear about when you are available to the employees and set aside time to get to know each member of the team.
For the middle manager
If you are in charge of other managers or operate at some similar level, it is important to consider your position in relation to other types of management. In this role, you will become a visible leader when you convey the same narrative as the rest of the management group and are able to defend and drive execution on decisions from strategic level. It is paramount that you make visions and decisions relevant to your department by way of communication and translation into meaningful contexts for them. It is also important that you communicate enough and well to different stakeholders and make yourself available during larger scale debates and problems. In short, your visibility often stems from your competence in building bridges within the organisation.
For the top manager
When it comes to C-level management, the focal point of your visibility should be strategic decision-making and the communication of these decisions. You are visible when you present and explain the overall vision to the employees, when you have opinions and give messages close to your heart, as well as when you outline or maintain a course through difficult times – the last point being especially relevant during the current circumstances surrounding the corona crisis. It is important that you act with utmost consequence and step into full character when needed. It is also important that you immerse yourself in the company culture and it will probably be beneficial for you to involve yourself in some of the informal activities of the organisation as a whole in order to present yourself as a strong, visible and engaging executive.
The last piece of advice
There are lessons to be learned from the three above-mentioned management roles and the parameters for visibility they typically contain. But another crucial point to consider would be the specifics of your own organisation. You are very likely to encounter frameworks or cultures which call for different types of visibility in different positions or which approach the managerial tasks in a way that hardly conforms to traditional organisational models.
Our last piece of advice would therefore be to always keep an eye on the context of your current company or industry. You can utilise this insight as a starting point. You can also use it to continually compare and reflect upon your role as well as the demands placed on you from different parts of the organisation.
By Thomas Secher – INAC Denmark