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Become an Approachable, Sociable Leader

Become an Approachable, Sociable Leader

Dan McCarthy | Great Leadership

April 26, 2010

What!!?? How to be a more approachable, social leader? Who cares? What the hell does being warm and fuzzy have to be with being a great leader? And another thing… if it wasn’t for all these damn people we have to work with, we might actually get some work done.

Well, as it turns out, it does matter. While not a show stopper, or a derailer, if completely ignored, there could have negative consequences that impact your effectiveness as a leader.

I know this from personal experience. Yes, I have a confession to make. I’m a flaming introvert. I’m that guy at the social function counting down the minutes, looking for a side door to quietly slip out un-noticed. I’m naturally reserved, don’t show a lot of emotion, think before I speak, and hate making small talk with people I don’t know very well.

I’m only coming out of the closet like this as an example of someone that’s learned to adapt their behavior to meet the needs of my career, family, and to be a better leader and person. It’s a development need for me, and something I’m working on to improve.

It’s also hard for an extrovert to give advice to an introvert on how to be more approachable and sociable. It’s such a natural thing, and what works for them doesn’t always work for someone that’s the complete opposite.

In this case, I’m extremely qualified to give advice on something I suck at.

So what are the potential behavioral, or leadership implications for someone who’s a natural introvert, and/or somewhat reserved? If you’re not careful, you could:

- Be seen as someone who doesn’t listen to other’s concerns
- Have trouble working as a part of a team
- Not develop the social networks needed to be manage your career
- Be seen as aloof, or even arrogant
- Be seen as unenthusiastic about people or projects
- Have trouble in front of groups, making presentations
- Be seen as hard to read, and hard to trust

Yikes, would would have known?

In order to avoid these potential problems, here are 7 tips for all of you engineers, scientists, accountants, programmers, and managers that want to up your sociability game:

1. Smile.
For me, this was a learned behavior. I didn’t realize the negative effect I was have having on people until someone pointed it out. Once I started doing it (and it hurt), it had amazing results. No, you don’t have to have to be wearing a dumb grin all the time – just do it when you greet someone or pass them in the hallway.

Interesting cultural note: In Rome, Italians do not smile at strangers. It took me a couple days to catch on to this, they must have thought I was some nut-case.

2. Personal disclosure.
Share more about yourself. I’m not talking about sharing your thoughts around your latest theory on leadership – I mean personal information. Doing so helps build trust and relationships – it’s a bonding ritual. Caution – don’t overdo it initially – you’ll freak people out. Start with sharing some vacation pictures, or a story about your kids, or your dog, etc… Work your way up to it, and people will then start sharing information in return.

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