One of the most important character traits of today’s high-performance leaders is transparency. We refer to it as a character trait because transparency, both the commitment to it, or the lack of it…is a reflection of the character of the leader. Historically, managers have used a kind of calculated transparency to grow their own power. The decision to share or not share certain kinds of information is one of the key differentiators between leaders and managers.
Have you noticed that transparency is getting a lot of lip service these days? It has found its way into a lot of mission statements and corporate credos. The big question has become: is transparency actually part of what we are doing as leaders, or are we just talking about it?
To answer this question, we need to start with the basics. What is transparency? You will probably never find another “strategy” that is simpler to explain. In a team context, transparency is just telling the truth to more people than you normally would. More staffers, more customers, more stakeholders…transparency means more truth to more people.
Transparency is aspirational. Leaders and organization that value it will be constantly challenged with just how much transparency is actually good for their teams. We have worked with companies who deeply valued transparency as part of their corporate culture. They were overt in the discussion and debate of key strategic decisions. We have seen how this commitment to transparency has been very positive and absolutely negative in different situations.
A Final Word on Transparency
Developed leaders and coaches understand that it is better to err on the side of too much transparency, rather than too little. When you offer too little transparency, you are risking your credibility. When a leader seems to be offering too much transparency, they open themselves to some criticism, but their credibility is not at risk.
Remember, transparency is just telling the truth to more people than you normally would. It is a decision you are making about your organization’s character. Making a habit of demonstrating real transparency in your role will make you a better leader.