What is Leadership Transparency?

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Is it just another modern-day catchword?

What is Leadership TransparencyAccording to a survey by the American Psychological Association, a full 25% of employees do not trust their employer, and half of all employees surveyed do not believe their employer is open or honest with them.

Transparency is one of those catch-words we hear all the time. You know, “tell the truth.” But is it that simple?

As Anita Wojtas-Jakubowska (www.emplo.com), wrote” When you hear ‘transparent leadership,’ you might be imagining a freeform startup headed up by a millennial that wears jeans to the office, but it doesn’t have to be that way. While many organizations that champion transparent leadership often also employ a democratic style of leadership, aspects of transparent leadership can benefit any leader in any industry from established global enterprises to the smallest startup with only one employee.

On the upside, straight and level, adopting a “transparent leadership” style can revamp your entire company culture by increasing employee engagement, productivity, profit, reduced turnover, and more. It can literally affect every area of the organization because your employees have their hands in every aspect of the business by necessity. However, even bending the truth can blow any attempt at what most people conflate with transparent (i.e., the “truth”). So, we need to define what transparency means.

Transparency: “lack of restriction; accessibility.”

That definition is probably not what we think. Transparency does not mean “the truth.”

At its core, transparent leadership really encourages collaboration. Think about it, when collaborating to solve a problem, without the facts, how valid can any solution be? So, we could say that collaboration is really not the same thing as transparency. Indeed, in the real world, real transparency without detailed explanation can sometimes be destructive. We all know that and statements like transparency seem so naïve. Now, data should be transparent but only when placed carefully in context. When we hear the word transparency used in the same sentence as politics, we can only moan and roll our eyes. Just another example of misguided terminology. Indeed, an oxymoron. We all know it but want to believe otherwise. However, when it comes to problem-solving, being honest and truthful is the key to collaborative problem-solving. So, I propose that whenever you hear that MBA word “Transparency” we substitute it with collaboration.

There are many benefits to transparent (collaborative) leadership that might surprise you. Here are the five biggest ones for us:

  • Happier employees.

Research shows that employees don’t just quit jobs, but they also quit managers. (Turnover costs and lower morale=less productivity)

Another survey showed that 37% of respondents were more likely to leave their jobs due to poor opinions of their manager’s performance.

Adopting a transparent leadership style can help your employees get to know you, understand the decisions you make, and feel more connected to the organization. Employees are most engaged when senior leadership updates them on a regular basis and communicates organizational strategy and goals.

Fewer problems that are solved faster.

Employees come from different backgrounds, have different thought processes, look at problems differently than you do. You’ll get more creative solutions to problems than you could ever dream up alone.

Your employees might surprise you with their creativity and ingenuity. Furthermore, you’re increasing employee engagement, because they’ll feel like they really have a voice in ensuring that the organization is successful.

Increased trust.

Using transparent leadership can allay concerns, reassure employees, and increase trust. Do things for the right reasons-consistently.

When employees know what’s going on, they can understand your decision process. Sometimes even the most well-reasoned choices can look like they came out of left field if your employees don’t know what went into making that decision.

  • You have more freedom.

Believe it or not, but a transparent leadership style gives you more leeway. While the idea of laying everything out to your employees can be, frankly, scary if you’ve never done it before, once you get over the initial trepidation, it’s incredibly freeing.

You have the ability to make mistakes – and admit them. You can grow visibly in front of your employees. You don’t need to create an image of knowing everything or feel like you always have to justify your choices. You can empathize with employee problems, validate feelings, encourage your employees, listen to their ideas, and make them feel heard. You can be open and honest with feedback (both that you offer and that your employees offer you).

When your employees trust you, they’re willing to let you take chances and make mistakes because you’ve developed a strong relationship with them.

Better performance.

You will get better performance from your employees because they will be happier, more engaged, and feel loyalty toward you and the organization. What’s more, better performance translates into objective increases in profits. Additionally, happy, engaged employees? Much less likely to leave their current organization for the unknown. Transparent leadership can help reduce employee churn and turnover, further reducing operating costs and knowledge loss while helping to retain talent.

As we live and experience life, we learn that words can mean many different things. And one work that is very opaque is transparency.


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