During the recent dismissal of Gene Jones (former CEO of TCHC), many expressed how they will miss his personable and individual attention. This was a CEO who would go down to a local public housing unit and deal with issues head-on. One tenant remarked how she never saw the CEO until his visit. The people he visits will remember him and go to bat for him. Mayor Rob Ford commended Gene’s leadership style (since he does something similar himself).

However, is that the best way to lead an organization? Some thoughts:

  • It’s good for a leader to be personable. It demonstrates that you’re willing to connect with those you serve. The leader can’t hide out of sight all the time.
  • However, functionally, the leader can’t be the only face with the public or clients. If all issues and decisions need to go through you, you’re creating a bottleneck. After all, no matter who you are, you’re only one person and your time, energy and attention are finite. You can only handle so much.
  • This defines a person’s understanding of leadership. If the leader needs to be the forerunner and the only face, the organization then is built around you (i.e. it’s all about you). In some cases, those leaders are building their own egos and brand. However, if leadership empowered those around you to engage with clients and take ownership with you, you begin to champion others in making change happen. Carey Nieuwhof blogged about how to be a jerk. He comments a jerk will take credit for everything that goes well and blame others for everything that goes wrong. A good leader, it seems, would do the opposite: give credit to others for what goes right and but takes the blame when things go wrong. In other words, you are willing to champion others to succeed while ensuring the structure is there for the organization to move forward well.

It’s good to be personable and approachable. But it’s even better when a leader’s staff are empowered to be the face and hands of the organization, and be championed to be the change-makers in that company. It’s better for the client because they have someone they can connect with regularly, knowing that results can happen. It’s better for the staff because it adds value and meaning to their work. It’s better for the organization because, if something were to happen to the leader, the organization would still move on.

The general public may never really know the leader well. But if the leader is able to empower others to move the organization forward, I think that’s the best kind of management style.