Leaders Are Transparent

“I think the currency of leadership is transparency. You’ve got to be truthful. I don’t think you should be vulnerable every day, but there are moments where you’ve got to share your soul and conscience with people and show them who you are, and not be afraid of it.”

– Howard Schultz

Transparency is hands down one of my favorite topics to discuss because I believe the difference between a good leader and a great leader is transparency.  As the quote above says, you don’t need to be vulnerable everyday, but in order for people to be able to trust you they need to know you’re human and that you feel.  You also don’t necessarily need to be transparent in order to lead well.  There are plenty of leaders in the world who are not completely transparent and would rather mask their insecurity rather than admit they have faults, but the truly great leaders are the ones that consistently reveal their hearts to those around them.

Transparency, like humility, is hard.  To be vulnerable with someone, to admit you have faults and don’t have all the answers, is a major blow to one’s ego.  It takes someone who can lead themselves well to come clean if they’ve made a mistake.  Of course, there is more to transparency than just talking about one’s mistakes.  Transparency can also be for disclosing the current state of things.

I worked a job that in the midst of many faults and failings, they got this idea of transparency right (well, mostly just the executive staff).  As employees, we were well informed of the state of the workplace and how, if things didn’t turn around, that there wasn’t going to be a workplace.  Now many people may raise a red flag and say, “Why would you tell your employees that the organization is going down?  Won’t that just freak them out?”  Yes.  It will freak the employees out; however, the people who are going to fix the organization are not necessarily the leaders, it’s the employees.  But if the employees don’t know what’s going on in the organization, how will they know something needs to be fixed?  This is why transparency is so important.

My favorite leaders are the ones who tell me upfront that they don’t have it all together.  The leader can either tell me, or I can find out on my own quickly.  The former option builds trust and admiration, but the latter breeds distrust and hostility.  No matter how much our humanness urges us to keep our feelings and our current states to ourselves, I encourage you to implement an element of transparency.  Don’t let insecurity of your position bring you or your organization down.  Don’t be afraid of what you feel, for, again as the beginning quote says (with some creative liberty), your feelings are the currency of leadership.

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