• Mike

3 things web accessibility can teach us about leadership

I went to a fantastic talk last week on web accessibility by Larene Le Gassick – a leading accessibility expert or in her words ‘a dev who won’t shut up about colour contrast and html form labels’. Web accessibility is important for obvious reasons, but I was hit between the eyes about the economic and intangible impacts of not sitting up and paying attention. A Forrester Consulting study assessed that for an average European company with 1 million site visits per day, there is an annual loss of $2.3M Euros due to incomplete customer journeys. Not only does it impact the top line, it’s also felt on the bottom line because it impacts employee engagement, innovation and productivity.  So whether you work in enterprise, NFP, or a government organisation take note.

What I also took away was that web accessibility also has parallels to our leadership. Much like web accessibility, if leadership is neglected or mistreated, it can have a detrimental impact to:

Brand.  Customers are unlikely to congratulate an organisation for their accessibility, but they are very likely to publicly out organisations for having poor accessibility.   Economist John Kenneth Galbraith once observed that changing the leadership of an organisation rarely affects the share price but getting rid of a truly bad CEO dramatically improves it.  This is because investors (and teams) want to have trust to fulfil their need for psychological safety.  Our leadership must be a trusted brand in order to be successful with internal teams and external stakeholders.

Better products and services.  It stands to reason that websites and applications which have been designed with accessibility in mind have a lower cognitive load, improved visibility and don’t consume excessive amounts of computing resources.  The same could be said for our leadership.  Our strategic direction to peers, teams and managers should be unambiguous and succinct so that it can be understood, seen by all in a transparent manner and be easy to digest.  We can easily conflate messages to sound good when read by us, but it is what teams understand that counts.

Employee engagement.  It’s tenuous, but good accessibility makes for happier employees.  I can see that if teams see that accessibility is important, then it probably means their employer has strong values, which from a broader perspective makes teams happier.  From a leadership perspective, this is the crux of it; everything we do and say should consider the

impact on employee engagement.  Teams want trust and teams trust what they see.  As humans, what we see is superficial and can be changed in an instant.  One poor action or word can very quickly erode good leadership.  However, trying to build good leadership and web accessibility takes well thought out interactions and words.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on these principles so please do comment, like and share the article below.  If you would like to know more about strategies to help build and maintain effective teams, send me a message.