How ‘Winsome Approachability’ Can Be a Leadership Game-Changer

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This week, the Willow Creek Association announced the news that a new president and c.e.o. had been named for the WCA; Tom De Vries. You can read about this here.

For those of us who have worked with, and been led by, outgoing president Gary Schwammlein, the exciting news is tinged with sadness. We realize that the leader who has been a part of the WCA for more than 20 years will soon retire.

When people ask me about what has made Gary such a remarkable leader, one term that comes to mind is “winsome approachability”. This was a term I first heard to describe Gary by Global Leadership Summit founder Bill Hybels. 

“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.”

As I thought about the importance of this quality, I jotted down some important qualities of winsome approachability that I’ve seen modeled by Gary Schwammlein:

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.

Gary has led by being with and among his colleagues.

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.

Gary has always shown a keen interest in the lives of his teammates. And it matters.

Approachable leaders smile.

A cold demeanor will build a cold team. Gary has led with the warmth of his smile.

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 warm up your approachability, consider getting out of your office a bit more, put on a warm, genuine smile, and show a genuine interest in the lives of your teammates.

These are qualities that have been exemplified by Gary Schwammlein. And they are qualities I have been inspired to develop in my own leadership.


the author

Scott Cochrane

Vice President- International, Global Leadership Network. Love Jesus, Nora, Adam & Robin, Amy, Dave, Willow & Olive and John, Fiona & Will. Lifelong learner.

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