Leaders are Visible and Accessible

By | April 16, 2019

[April 16, 2019] One of the most powerful lessons in military leadership tells us that the best leaders are those that are visible and accessible. On the battlefield or the assembly line or the boardroom, those leaders who can be seen, heard, and talked to, will always be the most successful.

As a Private in the U.S. Army, I learned a valuable early lesson that would influence the way I lead as a senior officer. As a young, new soldier I never saw my company commander. He was either in his office, out at the higher headquarters, or somewhere mysterious (to me anyway). As a consequence, I never knew what he wanted from the unit.

Maybe it didn’t matter much that a Private (there was over half a million of us at the time) didn’t know what was going on. My belief later in my military career was exactly the opposite. Everyone must know what’s going on from the Private to the General. Otherwise, failure will be knocking at the leader’s door.

“Leadership is about people and the most direct means to show the importance of anything is with the physical presence of a leader.1 – at theLeaderMaker.com, August 20, 2016

When the leader is present, people are more confident and at ease in their work. There is some deep psychological need for leadership and, according to several social scientists, this manifests itself in positive outcomes when the leader is both visible and accessible.

In the movie The Patriot (2000), starring Mel Gibson as a Revolutionary War leader, Gibson is seen in numerous battle scenes personally leading attacks against the British. While it is true that movies are notoriously inaccurate, this movie does portray the personal leadership of Andrew Pickens (played by Gibson) that helped win the war.

Pickens understood the need for leaders to be present on the battlefield; otherwise, the American foot soldiers tended to retreat when confronted by the highly disciplined British Army. After the war when he served in politics from 1781 to 1795, he carried this same philosophy into politics that made him part of many victories on the battlefield. He was visible and accessible.


  1. https://www.theleadermaker.com/helps-make-leader/
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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

24 thoughts on “Leaders are Visible and Accessible

  1. Kenny Foster

    Another good article, thanks Gen. Satterfield.

  2. Eric Coda

    Being visible and accessible is the only way to build trust and respect. Leave the “tower” and walk around, observe, ask questions. Ask questions about their families and their frustrations at work. Ask, “What is broken that needs to be fixed?” Then go fix it. This mutual trust only works if you do what you say you will do.

    1. Doug Smith

      Spot-on comment. This is what real leadership means.

      1. Maureen S. Sullivan

        Yes, I was thinking the same but you beat me to the punch.
        🙂 🙂 🙂

    2. Gil Johnson

      Good to hear from you again, Eric. Well said.

  3. Roger Yellowmule

    “The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” Colin Powell and as quoted here in Gen. Satterfield’s blog on senior leadership.

    1. Darryl Sitterly

      One of my favorite quotes of all time.

  4. Yusaf from Texas

    “There is nothing like being visible, publishing one’s work, and speaking openly about one’s life, to disabuse the world of the illusion of one’s perfection and purity” – Joyce Maynard

  5. Willie Shrumburger

    In being visible, great leaders establish trust (deservedly so), and they prove their worthiness of trust and loyalty on a consistent basis. God made his love visible by sending us his Son. “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14

  6. Danny Burkholder

    There is no other action that demonstrates a commitment to their team more than to show them that they, too, are willing to do the work they expect of others. It can be the most valuable action that a manager or leader will ever take.

  7. JT Patterson

    By being visible, available, and caring, leaders can see and learn if people need help. One of the most important lessons a leader or manager should know is the impact of supporting their team.

  8. Albert Ayer

    Leader visibility demonstrates a desire to be engaged in their work and with other people. It shows the staff that leaders are aware of and care about their work and are willing to help when necessary. These actions speak volumes about what leaders think about their job and their employees; that they care and value staff. And those employees, in turn, will care and value their work and the leader.

  9. Georgie M.

    Effective leaders lead by example. By being visible, available, and caring, leaders can see and learn if employees need support or help.

  10. Jonathan B.

    Leaders at all levels of a healthcare organization, like where I work, need to be available, approachable, and visible. If leaders spend all of their time in their offices, how can they know what the employees need or the quality of care they provide? Effective leaders make time and actually schedule time to walk throughout the facility, engaging with staff, residents, and families. It is not about the need to “check on employees,” but rather a genuine desire to interact with the staff and residents in order to determine that both are receiving the care and attention that they deserve.

  11. Max Foster

    Inherent to this issue of being a visible leader is the underlying characteristic of being consistent. As cliché as it is, “Words are cheap.” The thing that is lacking in many leaders is a willingness to commit and to stay committed for the long haul. They remain committed when the tough times come and when adversity visits the team.

  12. Len Jakosky

    Visible Leaders walk their talk. Their day-to-day behaviors support their words and beliefs. They demonstrate that commitment with their consistent involvement in the work of the team.

  13. Greg Heyman

    If you are my leader, please don’t just tell me — show up and show me!
    Found this quote somewhere, but it represents the ideal leader…one that is always present and accessible and ready.

    1. Danny Burkholder

      That’s it exactly. Don’t just tell me and walk away, be there to ensure I am doing what is right and I can get just a little pat on the back.

  14. Army Captain

    I always enjoy your stories of when you were a Private in the army. Much appreciate that you tie this to so many lessons learned. If only we would have paid closer attention when we were young.

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