The visible leader has the opportunity to influence. It's much harder (though not impossible) to inspire, motivate and develop your people remotely. If you remember the 5 Powers (see elsewhere in another article) - and most especially the one that I suggested has the greatest impact on the motivation and commitment of managers and staff; 'Referent' power - then it is apparent that this power relies upon the impact of a leader's attitudes, values, demonstrated abilities and, to an extent, charisma (more about this vexed subject soon). In an organisation like Virgin, Richard Branson cannot be visible face-to-face (F2F) to a wide enough range of people across their many organisations. Thus he has resorted to the use of PR and the media to remain a visible presence to the people of Virgin. Technology gives us the opportunity to stay F2F with everyone - through Blogs, Intranets, Vodcasts, Webcasts and the like. These have a very different effect to the old-style public meeting - where the speaker is a distant speck and acoustics are a struggle. Research indicates that an individual is far more likely to engage with a vodcast (where they are effectively 121 with the leader) than as part of a faceless crowd.
These technological routes are still though at best a substitute. Better by far to actually see the whites of the eyes of every individual and engage with them F2F and toe-to-toe. Certainly this must be the case for the key players and your immediate reports - a leader's time is clearly an expensive and scarce resource so good judgement is required - return on time invested should be the impact measure.
I would though suggest that this F2F visibility is a far better use of your time than attending yet another routine meeting....
Go out and walk the talk!