[image by tiago • ribeiro, flickr artist](http://www.flickr.com/photos/fixe/)
image by tiago • ribeiro, flickr artist

when it comes to management, there’s a very simple principle that i feel makes a good leader a great leader: for all the knowledge you might have — for all the skills and abilities you might have — it means very little if your team never sees you.

by definition, a leader is in front. a leader doesn’t stay behind the scenes and control from afar. that’s why when leading — a project, a team, an entire department — you have to be more than “the boss.” it’s important to have the people who you rely on to get the work done see you. it’s important to set aside face time to connect with your teammates and your colleagues. it helps to show that you care about them and that their work doesn’t go unrecognized.

some leaders will post updates on a wiki, or through emails, or in project schedules and task lists. but when all people see or hear are your words, it causes a disconnect between you and your message — be it positive or negative. your admiration will be seen as obligatory and that you’re “just being nice because you have to.” and youradmonitionwill be seen as unjustified. people will wonder, “how can someone criticize me and my work when they don’t even know me?”

in the same way that you’d expect your favorite NFL team’s quarterback to be talking with thereceivers, running backs, and offensive line on the sidelines, you have to be talking to your own team as well. from the skilled positions, to the ones who do the ‘grunt work’ — you have to be working as hard at communicating as the quarterback because… well, you are the quarterback.

when you speak through email and other forms of written text, it’s easy to lose context. don’t just let your words speak for you. be visible and let you speak for yourself.