The Vital Role of “Winsome Approachability” in Leadership

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This week I was asked what I thought were some key characteristics of effective leaders. And as I thought about that, my mind went back to an observation made by Willow Creek Church’s senior pastor Bill Hybels a few months ago.

During a coaching session, Bill singled out Willow Creek Association president Gary Schwammlein for possessing a vital leadership trait.

“More than just about anyone I know,” Bill began, “Gary Schwammlein possesses winsome approachability. And that characteristic is a huge reason for his leadership success.”

Winsome approachability.

As I thought about the importance of this quality, I jotted down three important leadership “wins” that approachable leaders achieve:

Bill Belo Horizonte

Approachable leaders transfer values quickly

If a leader is considered intimidating, or stand-offish, they can find it difficult to connect with people in a way that can easily impact core values.

Approachable leaders spot emerging leaders

If the primary role of a leader is to raise up other leaders, approachability is a must. You can’t identify potential leaders from afar.

Approachable leaders know the pulse of the team

Only when you’re up close and personal with your team will you discover what is really going on in the ranks.

How do you become an approachable leader? As I’ve observed tremendously approachable leaders, like Gary, I’ve observed three important characteristics of approachable leaders.

Approachable leaders get out of their office.

This used to be called “leadership by walking around”. Call it what you will, the first step towards approachability is to simply emerge from the cocoon of your office and get out to where the people are.

Approachable leaders talk about non-work related topics.

If all you ever talk about are spreadsheets and strategic plans, your team will never warm up to you. Talking about family, sports, movies, and other “real life” topics will draw your team closer.

Approachable leaders smile.

‘Nuff said?

When Bill described Gary’s approachability he added, “I’ve flown all over the world with Gary. And I’ve always been struck that wherever we land Gary gets off the plane and gives our friends a big hug.”

If you want to up your approachability, consider getting out of your office a bit more, put on a warm, genuine smile, and ask your teammates about the latest movie they’ve seen.

The results will be well worth the effort.

the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.


  1. Good advice, practical tips; especially for introverted Pastors like me. Thank you
    Herbert Moloantoa

  2. Comment*. I want to be a really pastoral or religios leader.

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