Leadership Spotlight

Are You An Approachable Leader?

Stock image of a manager looking at an electronic tablet being held by an employee.

Many traits can make someone a strong and well-respected leader. Knowledge, honor, trustworthiness, and loyalty constitute just a few of the attributes that form the foundation of effective leadership. However, regardless of what strengths you have, if you are not approachable, you may fail to connect with your employees and miss valuable opportunities to succeed.

What do you think of in terms of approachable leaders? Are they friendly? Gracious? Outgoing? Often, they have a combination of many attributes, and it may be hard to label them. Such leaders make others feel comfortable. Regarding any problem, you know you can talk to them and get a thoughtful, honest answer.

Have you ever had an intelligent leader with no people skills? This type of person may pass you in the hall and fail to say “Good morning” when greeted. These individuals may have valuable ideas, but because of their inability to talk to people, they often fail to communicate them effectively or have them well-received. Approachability puts employees at ease and allows them to open up to you.


Leaders can become more approachable through some simple actions. Smile, avoid sarcasm, make eye contact, avoid overreacting, learn people’s names, provide honest feedback, and share your failures.


Whether you realize it or not, facial expressions give away your emotional state. No one wants to approach leaders who have a scowl on their face and appear mad at the world. A simple smile makes you seem more approachable and friendly. So, put one on your face and enjoy the benefits it will bring you.

Avoid Sarcasm

Have you ever encountered sarcastic leaders? These individuals may think they are funny, but to others they just seem mean. No one likes being made fun of, and that often is how sarcasm appears. Your employees want to be heard and appreciated, and using sarcasm can discourage them from approaching you. So, be polite and even if you do not agree with what someone says, respond professionally and courteously.

Make Eye Contact

The eyes are the window to your soul. This statement holds true in many ways. During conversations, employees do not want to talk to the back of your head. Making eye contact makes it seem as though you have genuine interest in what the other person is saying and that you truly care about them.

Avoid Overreacting

Overreacting—especially to bad news—can affect your approachability. Most employees want levelheaded leaders who conduct themselves in a positive manner. You should know that nothing is perfect and mistakes will happen. Handle each situation with this in mind and control your emotions. Mood swings or outbursts can put personnel on edge and make them less likely to confide in you for fear of the way you may react.

Learn Names

You must honor your responsibility to learn the names of the people who work for you. Of course, you may work in a department with hundreds or even thousands of employees. It may seem impossible to remember everyone. But, you still can do some homework and use cues or “cheat sheets” if need be.

A leader once gave the introduction for a deputy of the year award. Everything seemed to go well until he called the recipient to the stage. In front of the individual’s family and friends and hundreds of other people, he called the recipient by the wrong name—an embarrassment.

Provide Honest Feedback

Honesty is the best policy. Sometimes, it proves challenging to tell people what they may not want to hear. But, in the end, sharing the truth always is easier. And, honest leaders are esteemed. They earn more credibility with the truth than when caught in a lie. Be honest, fair, and polite. You will gain more respect and approachability.

Share Your Failures

The ability to share failures can make a leader seem more approachable. No one is perfect or has all the answers. People learn through failure; without it, they never would evolve. Embrace failure and remain willing to share it with your employees. It humanizes you and gives your personnel the courage to make tough decisions.


Successful leaders know how to get the most out of their personnel. They identify the strengths and weaknesses of employees and put them in positions to succeed. By using these habits to your advantage, you will have not only a better work environment but also happy and content workers. The more approachable you make yourself, the more confidence your people will have in you and the more successful your organization will become.

Captain Donald Capello of the Ascension Parish, Louisiana, Sheriff’s Office, prepared this Leadership Spotlight. He can be reached at dcapello@ascensionsheriff.com.