Clouded Glass or Clear Transparency?

A few years ago I wrote a piece entitled: ‘Truth, Trust and Transparency – where is the line for you?”  This post was extremely popular amongst my clients and I want to reiterate a few of the key points this week. Not surprisingly, the topic of transparency in leadership continues to be in the forefront of business leaders’ minds.

How much should strong leaders reveal? How vulnerable can we be to show our true authenticity and yet not appear weak? What is the better ‘style’ of leadership – mysterious and ‘genius-like’ (aka: Steve Jobs) or open and folksy (aka: Herb Kelleher)?  Which style breeds successors and which style is almost impossible to follow? Which one enables sustainability within a culture? Most notably there was an interesting HBR blog stating that transparency was the new ‘leadership imperative’ where they discuss Steve and other CEOs relative to their level of transparency. What are we really talking about here?

We have all worked with individuals with varying levels of transparency. However, what I offer this week is that the long term success of the leader and the organization they are building is tightly coupled to the level of transparency, authenticity, and trust embedded within the person and ultimately throughout the culture. 

Which brings me to the primary message this week: there is supreme merit, not to mention power, in  trusting your people and working with open transparency and authenticity.  Two points to consider this week:

1. Trust Needs Care and Attention.

At the end of the day, with any “real team,” trust is at the root of it. If you have been lucky enough to be on a team such as this you know what I mean. Everyone pulls together, egos aside. Blood, sweat and tears are given in equal measure by every member. It is a fabulous experience and one that fuels itself, as the energy is constantly being reborn within the team. This ‘trust alchemy’ does not happen by accident. Leaders foster this. Leaders nurture this. Leaders take care with this. Leaders bestow trust easily and freely.

How is this done? It’s not really that hard – if we can just get out of our own way. It is done through truly listening to members of the team (how many times have I written about this now?).

  • valuing what they say,
  • telling the truth – openly and transparently,
  • treating others the way you would want to be treated,
  • asking no one to do what you would not do yourself,
  • having faith in the team to deliver in a manner each team member would be proud,
  • consistently doing what you say you are going to do (when you were going to do it),
  • and giving ‘tough love’ (i.e. telling the truth even when it may be really hard) when it is warranted.

One last observation on ‘truth and trust.’ You will know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, if either is not present. and failure while stretching to reach. You will also know when they are.  

2.  You get what you give. Period.

If you want to build a team of open, collaborative leaders – then be one. If you want to attract leaders into your organization who buy into your vision and your passion – then share it. If you want to create an organization where risk is valued and intentions are considered pure – then stretch, risk, and exemplify pure intentions yourself.  Show your soul. Let folks get to know you – the real you.

People can spot a phoney a mile away. And those ‘fake leaders’ , those that have read every leadership book and are simply going through the motions, do not have sustainability. They will flame out – until their core is anchored in authenticity and revealed with clear transparency and vulnerability. 

Finally, from my experience, leaders who freely give trust, breed trust, with and between the team members. Leaders who are fully transparent and open create a culture which is equally open, collaborative, and energized. This creates an esprit de corp which is unstoppable and unbreakable. Equally, when leaders are transparent in their aspirations, as well as their concerns, the team bonds to and with the leader in a way that is undeniable, and provides a competitive force unlike any other. Open up. Show your soul and your passion. You will attract the same – and that is a powerful force.