Our Mission? Teach One Million
People to be Approachable Leaders.

About Approachable Leadership


pbw-headshotWelcome! I’m Phil Wilson and I’m the Chief Evangelist of Approachable Leadership. We’re really glad you’re here.

Approachable Leadership is a division of the Labor Relations Institute, where I’m President, General Counsel, and occasional barista (if putting water in the coffee machine counts as being a barista).

LRI was started by my dad in 1978 and over the last 36 years our firm has helped improve relationships between managers and their employees in over 10,000 different companies. We’ve done a pretty good job. We are one of the most successful and fastest growing leadership consultancies in the country (we’ve made the Inc. 5000 list multiple times).

Most of the time we are called in to help a company in crisis. Employees have gotten so sick of things they’ve basically “filed for divorce” from their managers. Relationships are frayed to the breaking point.

When relationships get this bad it effects every aspect of a company. Productivity plummets. People quit helping out. Going above and beyond to help a coworker or a customer? Forget it. People are at each other’s throats. Stress is through the roof, profitability down the toilet.

After twenty years of watching this scenario play out over and over, I felt there had to be more we could do. I looked back. How do companies get themselves into this position in the first place? What is the root of the problem?

The answer is leadership of course – that much I knew right off. But I have seen all kinds of leaders over the years. I’ve seen “leaders” who could teach a masters class on management but couldn’t get people to follow them out of a burning building. Then I’ve seen others who don’t know “come here from sick ‘em” about management (as my dad likes to say – usually about me). Yet when you see them in action you realize people will run through a brick wall for them.

What’s the difference? What behavior or way of looking at the world predicts whether someone will succeed or fail as a leader?

And so the research began.

I went on a quest to try and answer this question. I read virtually anything I could get my hands on about leadership. After two years of open browser windows, highlighted articles, dog-eared books, and hours-long calls with clients and friends, I found it. The “one ring” of leadership that rules all the others. (It is worth noting here that while this ring does wonders for your professional and personal life it does not make you invisible – in case I failed to mention it I’m also a nerd).

The key? Leader Approachability.

Think about your best boss and the leaders you respect most. I guarantee if you start naming behaviors you admire you’ll end up with a list of approachable behaviors.

Many managers – especially new ones – commonly adopt behavior that is unapproachable. Companies often make this worse by expecting so much of managers that there is no time to actually lead. Even when there is a little time, managers are asked to supervise so many people that they only have time to put out fires. They end up pulling back and avoiding people, hoping to get through a day without adding more to their already ridiculous to-do list.

This is called a power-distance gap. It kills work relationships.

Leaders must constantly try to shrink this gap. You do that by being approachable. It is a two-way street. You must seek out others and create an environment where people feel comfortable coming to you. There are specific, easy-to-learn behaviors that help leaders shrink that gap. But in today’s “always on” workplace, it isn’t easy. Some days it’s darn near impossible.

Since discovering the connection between approachability and successful leaders, I have been evangelizing it to anyone who will listen. My team and I have worked tirelessly to develop tools for teaching this valuable skill to others. We are spreading the word through our Keynote presentations, Workshops, our Learning System, and my forthcoming book.

Our goal is big. We want to teach approachability to one-million leaders. But as Lao Tzu teaches, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. That’s why we are happy, proud, and excited to share these ideas with the world – one leader at a time.

Our Team

Phillip B. WIlson

Phillip B. WIlson

President, Chief Evangelist

Phil is the President and Chief Evangelist of Approachable Leadership. His full bio is available here. Phil hopes to model the principles of approachable leadership. If you can judge the quality of a leader by the quality of his team then Phil humbly submits he’s doing OK.

Cameron Brown

Cameron Brown

Approachability Sleuth

Cameron is the chief researcher on Approachable Leadership. A doctoral candidate at the University of Tulsa’s organizational psychology department, Cameron is researching and writing his doctoral thesis on approachable leadership.

Greg Kittinger

Greg Kittinger

Learning Design and Development

Greg does much of the heavy lifting on development and design of the Approachable Leadership Learning System. He brings a wealth of talent and experience in areas as diverse as video production, marketing, strategy, musical performance, and much more.

Nancy E. Jowske

Nancy E. Jowske

Thought Leader, Evangelist

Nancy is a thought leader who speaks, trains, and writes regularly on the subject of approachable leadership. Her unique life experiences (former union organizer, artist, teacher) give her invaluable insights on connecting with others.

Austin J. Clary

Austin J. Clary

EVP, Evangelist

Austin is an evangelist for approachable leadership. Austin’s deep experience both as an internal leader and an outside consultant with some of America’s most admired companies brings great value and perspective to leaders at all levels. He’s a passionate advocate for approachable leadership.

Steve Wardrop

Steve Wardrop

EVP, Evangelist

Steve trains the Approachable Leadership Workshop to leaders around the country. Steve is highly relationship focused and this comes across in every interaction with him. Steve’s not just a great trainer (although he is that) – he’s a model of approachability.

D. Michael Shaw

D. Michael Shaw

Evangelist

Mike is the “People First” guy. He has held roles as a top Human Resources executive in several organizations and understands the challenges companies face when it comes to walking the talk. A passionate advocate for approachable leadership, Mike brings energy (and humor) to every engagement.

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