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Leading by Example: How Transparency Can Make You a More Effective Leader

Great leaders aren’t born, they’re perpetual work-in-progress striving to communicate their vision in a way that maximizes the potential and productivity of their employees. Retooling, endurance, disrupting inefficient operations, decisiveness, and focus are the hallmarks of exceptional leadership qualities. However, as data rules the business landscape and an emphasis on creating a culture of clarity […]

Great leaders aren’t born, they’re perpetual work-in-progress striving to communicate their vision in a way that maximizes the potential and productivity of their employees. Retooling, endurance, disrupting inefficient operations, decisiveness, and focus are the hallmarks of exceptional leadership qualities. However, as data rules the business landscape and an emphasis on creating a culture of clarity in the workplace flourishes, a trait has emerged that’s proven most vital in a leader, it’s transparency.

Transparency isn’t a new-age passageway to business as usual. Perhaps in the past, taking adages literally, like, information is power, would find weaker leaders hoarding the inner workings they’re privy to, to maintain influence over their staff. Still, the employees of today reject this method. Taking a proactive approach to disclosing information, preaching radical honesty, and keeping open lines of communication, not just as lip service, is establishing a path well-traveled. 

This growing business trend is now seemingly etched in stone as a tenant of business ethics and practicum. Fortune 500 corporation heads and up-start tech entrepreneurs have all adopted the method of internal transparency.

Why is transparency important? Because culture is king in the workplace court. It is possible to direct those who report to you and their reports while keeping it close to the vest, but it won’t enrich the office culture. Without transparency, watercooler rumors will flow: baseless anxiety of job security can manifest, fear of there not being many career advancement opportunities can persist. Employees from different departments may not have the same understanding of goals and objectives. If everyone is collectively in the dark, there will be very few bright spots illuminating the corporate setting.

Trust begets trust. If the leader is open with their message and willing to share details or directions that are trying, the team will be more willing to follow their lead. If perceived as a person with flaws, and the same vulnerabilities we all share, and a commitment to growing as a leader, the narrative of the boss will be one of a humanized, authoritative figure they can respect.

A foundation of the truth will ultimately boost morale, which in turn will pay dividends in the form of more efficient productivity. With transparency, employees can plan for the future within the company and lay down the framework to protect themselves in case things take a turn. With openness, teams within an organization build easier and sturdier. If the person at the top communicates honestly, the rest will embrace it and find resolution quicker when conflicts arise in their dynamics using fair and open lines of dialogue. More trustworthy relationships will naturally develop when all the cards are on the table, and everyone is playing the same game.

Below are guidelines to help one achieve more transparency as a leader.

Honesty must be non-negotiable. A transparent leader’s most valuable form of currency is their truth-telling ability, regardless of the news positive or negative bent. Even in instances where the answer may not be readily available to you, it is better to err on the side of answering truthfully to their question that you don’t have the answer than buying time with half-truths or loopholes.

Build trust with consistency and frequency. For one’s staff to buy into the transparency culture that a leader is trying to promote, the leader must commit to transparent practices with persistence and regularity. It’s easy to write-off sporadic attempts at openness, but if the messaging and execution becomes a routine, a habit will develop.

Access to pertinent information about the company will empower employees to trust your decision making. If they are conscious of the very facts and analytics that you are drawing from, they can better understand you and the decision you make. That, in turn, will breed support and appreciation.

Ask questions and solicit feedback from your employees, even if the topic isn’t their area of expertise. Outside the box, thinking can spread like wildfire in sparking new ideas and problem-solving. This level of nuanced team-work will make a lasting impression.

Craft content that serves as a reference to the accountability and transparency that the leader (and business) will operate within. It’s challenging to schedule face-to-face time with your employees when bandwidth as a leader comes at a premium. Going on record and reaching a broader audience with transparent-focused content signals a leader’s standing and commitment to the truth to their employees. Whatever the medium, public blog post, newsletter, in-house vlog, communicating in this manner connects ownership with the company on a deeper level. 

Topics covering hardships, tackling real issues, and cataloging failures will aide in bolstering transparency into the work culture. Any burden’s the company faces doesn’t have to be on the shoulders of the leader; other’s can now engage in a conversation that can help improve the situation. Admitting failures gives the leader an air of authenticity.

An effective leader never loses sight of the team concept. Transparency lets the team know they’re on the collaborative footing with the person in charge. With honesty, clarity, and openness, an organization will continually operate in a culture that values and respects them.

Follow Greg Blatt on Medium.

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