Obtaining the right amount of access to a leader requires striking a delicate balance. Followers must have or negotiate a certain degree of access to support a leader and perform their roles. But followers often desire more access than a leader can realistically give or than they necessarily need. We must be alert to our own ego-based desire for unnecessary access and keep this in balance so it does not put undue strain on a leader’s time and energy. However, we should not allow our exaggerated sense of a leader’s importance and time constraints to keep us from requesting access when it is appropriate for accomplishing critical tasks or building and maintaining our relationship.
We can bear in mind these guidelines for improving our access:
If we genuinely require more access we must make whatever access we already enjoy valuable to the leader.
We must know our own communication weaknesses, such as rambling or getting too technical, that diminish a leader’s willingness to grant needed access, and work to keep these weaknesses in check.
Focusing on high-value issues and being well prepared are a base line for improved access, but are not necessarily sufficient.
Relaxed but productive and stimulating interchange may recharge a leader in ways that formal meetings don’t, causing the leader to seek out more contact with us.
Candor can create further receptivity in a leader as it is too often lacking in the atmosphere surrounding prominent leaders.
We should be aware of how the leader best receives and processes information and stress that vehicle—oral, written, electronic, graphic, experiential—to maximize the value of the access we do have.
Courageous followers empower themselves so they don’t require excessive access to make decisions. Empowerment requires internal confidence and external assumption or negotiation of authority to support the common purpose. A robust relationship with the leader is needed to fulfill the potential of the follower’s role. Appropriate access is both a requirement and sign of that relationship.