How transparency can make you a more effective leader
Transparent leadership inspires hope in employees, emboldens them with clarity, brings them closer to the company’s mission and makes crises surmountable with relative ease
One obvious reason to emphasise transparency in leadership is the need to prioritize clarity. We have lived in and continue to live in unpredictable times where careers and existences remain in flux. In such a scenario, transparent leadership, to an extent, can provide the relief of certainty we have missed all this while. Transparency inevitably builds trust and contributes to employees feeling safe under your guidance
The most important role of a leader is to set a clear direction, be transparent about how to get there and stay the course
- Irene Rosenfield-Mondelez
The top-down model of leadership can safely be called obsolete today. Strict hierarchical management has lost its cultural valency in the favour of collaborative regimes. Yet, on one hand, the remnants of the old order remain with functional hierarchies in place and on the other, collaborations crucially require trust. Leading harmoniously in an order where hierarchies continue to exist and collaborating meaningfully make transparency interminably significant. Transparent leadership, in fact, is not just immensely relevant for the times we live in but also for spearheading our march into a future of better professional cultures.
One obvious reason to emphasise transparency in leadership is the need to prioritize clarity. We have lived in and continue to live in unpredictable times where careers and existences remain in flux. In such a scenario, transparent leadership, to an extent, can provide the relief of certainty we have missed all this while. Transparency inevitably builds trust and contributes to employees feeling safe under your guidance.
As leadership strategist Glenn Llopis notes in a Forbes article, trust and transparency have become popular workplace demands as employees seek to be aware of what is real and true. Fatigued with the unexpected, people want to exist in a work environment that allows one to have greater clarity of thought – by eliminating the unknowns. In other words, as per his study, employees want transparency to be able to "plan and protect themselves."
On a related note, for Professor Dorie Clark, transparency is "brand insurance", a protection against unexpected disasters and externalities for the organization. The same applies to individuals, particularly leaders. It is extremely possible to make mistakes in today's highly competitive and unrelenting workplace and there are some debacles which cannot be predicted despite preparedness. In those dismal circumstances, what keeps leadership afloat, credible and powerful is transparency. Explaining your rationale, communicating your proposed methodologies across the organisations and owning up in the face of oversight or failure only bolsters your credentials as a leader.
Furthermore, transparency is an immediate elevation of all cultures of productivity. It bridges communication gaps between colleagues as well as between the top brass of the company and other levels, enabling a seamless, synergized environment to tackle problems, discuss concerns and keep promises realistic and professional performances in tune with the organization's expectations and ambitions. Rob Peters, author of Standard of Trust Leadership recounts a story of his early days at IBM when he and his superior discussed a crisis and solved it through a transparent handling of the circumstance. He recounts in a 2015 Pulse article, reproduced by Medium,
"After confronting my boss, he told me - "Rob, I am being told that I must achieve a specific revenue target that year and if I cannot achieve it, I am going to have to reduce staff. I would rather not inject additional anxiety in the team." I responded by recommending that if he openly shared his fears with our team and that if someone was not able to handle the truth - then we would uncover another problem. In other words, my boss' leadership group would be more successful at crafting a strategy to exceed performance requirements; rather than reducing an operating budget. We did and my manager learned an important principle about how to solve difficulties by being transparent with his entire team."
As the aforementioned case demonstrates, transparent leadership is a boost not just to productivity but also to team cohesion and interpersonal coordination. Under transparent leaders, vulnerabilities are shared, the scope for miscommunication and conflict is reduced and tough but necessary conversations find a suitable place to unfold. It integrates employees with the core purpose of the organization, making them feel more connected to a workplace where everything operates in trustworthy ways.
Summing up, transparency can endow leadership with the credibility and trust it needs to spearhead an organization powerfully. Transparent leadership inspires hope in employees, emboldens them with clarity, brings them closer to the company's mission and makes crises surmountable with relative ease. Such leadership runs on the fuel of authenticity and energizes organisations to foster exemplary professionalism and reap the richest dividends possible.
(The author is Chief Impact
Officer at Recykal Foundation)