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
more access than a leader can
give or than they
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
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
to the leader.
We must know our own communication weaknesses, such as rambling or getting too technical, that diminish a leader’s
to grant needed access, and work to keep these weaknesses in check.
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,
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
We should be aware of how the leader best receives and processes information and stress that vehicle—oral, written, electronic, graphic,
—to maximize the value of the access we do have.
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.
THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF
Followers who control the access of other followers to a leader have the responsibility to use this power
. The power of proximity to power is itself intoxicating and can inflate egos. Gatekeepers need to guard against becoming
and indifferent to the needs of those seeking access to the leader. If supporting a leader requires blocking or limiting access to an overloaded leader, a gatekeeper can do so with empathy and find other ways to help the person seeking access. A gatekeeper can become less a border guard and more of a
’s aid station—a traffic router,
, and facilitator.
Gatekeepers should not allow their own prejudices to insulate the leader from competing views or disapproved of sources. We must guard against
tests or subtle cultural biases, which limit the diversity of ideas reaching a leader. A gatekeeper must also avoid biasing a leader’s receptivity to a communication by introducing it derogatorily: “Oh, here’s another memo from so and so.” Biased remarks by a gatekeeper are a form of pandering to a leader’s perceived prejudices, or
A gatekeeper who distorts the screening process or
the leader’s reflected power hurts the leader and the organization. A courageous follower confronts this issue head on with the gatekeeper and, as necessary, with the leader. A functional gatekeeper protects those within the walls but
lets in the commerce of ideas that keeps the community vibrant. A
gatekeeper just keeps slamming doors.
often receive many
to lend their prestige to causes and events—charities,
, coalitions, political activities, symposiums, civic initiatives. If leaders overcommit they become distracted from the common purpose. Effective followers do not
leave this larger gatekeeping process to one individual. They establish a process to insulate an in-demand leader from excessive pressure and help her make balanced choices about which invitations to accept, delegate, or decline. A schedule reflects a leader’s values and priorities, and the process for developing it should not be taken lightly.
Competing scheduling requests can be batched and evaluated against well-thought-out criteria by a small, functionally balanced
. Some possible criteria are:
What opportunity does this
present for advancing the organization’s purpose?
What message does accepting or declining send about the leader’s values?
What is competing with this opportunity for the leader’s time and what value does that have to the organization?
Can the request be meaningfully delegated?
A well-thought-out scheduling process helps the leader and organization stay focused on the common purpose and the strategy for achieving it.