Why transparency is a must-have for today’s leaders

Why transparency is a must-have for today's leadersWhat kind of leader do you want to be? Is it someone with an aura—mysterious and revered, yet distant and disconnected from your employees? Or is it someone respected and trusted, but intimately known by everyone at your company?

This latter, transparent approach is a must-have for today’s leaders. Some of the biggest and brightest figureheads are considered “transparent,” but the path to becoming this type of professional is complicated.

Even so, here is why transparency is key for the leaders in your organization:

Transparency will bring your team together

Put yourself in the shoes of your employees. Would you want to be led by a person who is hard to reach and detached? In all likelihood, you wouldn’t feel very connected to this leader, which would make it harder to follow him or her, and feel satisfied in your job.

In an article for the Harvard Business Review, Dorie Clark argues that this is one reason why transparency is a must for leaders. Without transparency, it is much more challenging for employees to know their superiors, let alone like them and understand their points of view. This will make loyalty harder to achieve, and a lack of real relationships can negatively impact other areas of the business as well, from employee motivation and production to customer service.

Transparency can protect your business

Transparency is a critical aspect of transformative leadership. Some organizations lead through a veil, using vagueness as a way to mitigate risk and ensure that outside problems have minimal effects on operations.

A similar end result can be achieved via transparency, but with additional benefits. Clark cites Paul Levy, the former CEO of Boston-based Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, as an example. Levy used a personal blog to connect with his employees, colleagues, patients and their families. On the site, he wrote about the inner workings of the hospital, his personal life and the things that made him tick. As he garnered a following, the respect people had for him and his organization increased.

That made a big difference when a relationship Levy had with an employee became public knowledge. The damage to his reputation and the hospital was muted thanks to the transparent approach he had taken during his nine-year tenure.

Transparent leaders are alive and well

Transparency can be difficult for today’s leaders. It requires openness, effective communication skills, and confidence. Even with the challenges, there are many premier leaders using transparency to excel.

In an article for Forbes, contributor John Hall outlines several leaders who embrace the idea of transparency. Here are three leaders that set positive examples in their professions:

1. Tony Hsieh – Zappos
Online retailer Zappos is a model of transparency, thanks to leader Tony Hsieh. He has been known to share employee communications on social media. For example, Hsieh tweeted out emails about facility operations, pulling back the curtain for customers to get a closer look at how Zappos works.

2. Andy Levine – Development Counsellors
Development Counsellors’ Andy Levine got creative with transparency. The organization created a way to share its financial outlook with every employee. Called “The Game,” this platform declares a “win” once a certain profit is achieved, and then portions of those earnings are shared with each worker.

3. Rand Fishkin – SEOmoz
Rand Fishkin, of SEOmoz, uses transparency as a way to connect with customers and employees. He will gladly post his own performance review for all to see, plus he will even share funding decks with the public. Overall, Fishkin’s strategy is to let people see the ups and downs of the company, no matter what.

These are but three of the most transparent leaders today. This approach may not feel right for everybody, but it is important to use transparency as a strategy to build trust, improve communication and stand apart from the crowd.


© 2014 Merit Career Development. All rights reserved. For more information, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@MeritCD.com.

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