Leadership transparency (or its absence) is in the news a lot lately. Its visibility serves as a reminder on how a lack of transparency can dramatically affect any leader’s credibility.
As a leader, you’re likely on the top of your “transparency game,” which means you’re fully transparent in your dealings with your team, employees, customers, vendors, and family—right? Maybe not!
Full transparency is defined differently by different people, but here’s what it means to me:
You tell the whole story – not just part of the story.
Don’t hold back; make sure everything comes out. The tiniest detail that’s missing can be seen as your effort to hide something. The trust others have in you may wane. At times, you won’t be able to tell the whole story due to confidential or legal matters, and that’s okay. Everyone understands when you explain why you can’t say more.
You always tell the truth.
Communicate the facts; don’t interpret or embellish them. Doing so potentially creates skeptics and critics who can tarnish your credibility and trustworthiness. When that is going on, who will believe you on other matters?
You have no hidden agendas.
Hidden agendas are a tactic used by political bullies. If you have a plan, be all-inclusive. Ensure everyone knows the entire plan so it’s clear you aren’t trying to undermine anyone. This builds trust and respect.
You give your full support – not convenient support – to others.
Go all in on your support of others. You do not want to be perceived as “window dressing”—someone putting on a show when it’s convenient but isn’t truly committed to being supportive. Most people see through this quickly. I guess that makes you transparent—but not in a good way.
You embrace accountability and fix the situation. No excuses.
When you make excuses or try to deflect accountability, you are sending signals that your leadership skills are weak. Remember, you’re expected to provide leadership, not excuses.
Have a “transparency conversation” with your team. Articulate your transparency expectations of them and encourage them to have similar conversations with their direct reports.
If you have transparency problems with your leadership or in your organization, now is the time to step it up. In the words of Mother Teresa, “Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.”