The ROI for accessible leadership

In the digital age of social media, accessible leadership and executive engagement with stakeholders are critical, according to leadership consultants.

Susan Marshall, author, consultant and founder of Backbone Institute LLC, said being accessible enhances a business leader’s authenticity and provides a return on that investment of time and sincerity.

“People across the spectrum of business relations – stakeholders, employees, customers, investors, media, the community – want to know who you are, what you stand for, what they can trust and when they might find themselves at odds with your point of view. This difference of viewpoints is a key reason why enlightened leaders make themselves accessible. They know that when they can help people understand who they are, how they came to their way of thinking and that they are genuinely interested in hearing from others, people are more likely to listen and participate. When leaders welcome an exchange of ideas – even rigorous debate – the return on their investment of time, energy and discomfort is deepened trust,” Marshall said. “This trust, in turn, enables the development of a clear-eyed vision for the future, why leaders believe it is achievable, what it will take to realize, and what it means to constituents. Most people are hungry for this kind of leadership that generates enthusiasm, engagement and commitment. By contrast, leaders who seclude themselves, discourage debate and dictate from positions of protected authority generate distrust, disdain, and, ultimately, declining value for their organizations.”

Karen Vernal, president of Vernal Management Consultants LLC in Milwaukee, agreed that accessible leaders are perceived as authentic leaders.


“In our work, accessibility means much more than an open door policy; leadership by walking around or conducting town hall meetings. While each of these strategies can support accessibility, we would argue that what stakeholders, employees, customers, etc., want from leaders is the experience of authentic presence,” Vernal said. “Demonstrate transparency. Leaders who are accessible, offering authentic presence, are transparent. They allow themselves to be vulnerable, admitting, for example, that they don’t have the answers. What is the payoff for a leader who demonstrates authentic presence and true accessibility? Employees, investors, stakeholders, customers, etc., are more likely to invest in the goals of the leader and the mission of the organization.”

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