Transparency in leadership has become a hot topic—and for good reason. Transparent leaders have played a critical role in helping their organizations weather the pandemic, as we’ll discuss more in a moment. But transparency isn’t just important in difficult times—it’s critical in calmer times as well. We’ll explain why transparent leaders tend to get more from their teams by inspiring a sense of loyalty and job fulfillment.
Why transparency is so important
Transparency in leadership brings many core benefits: Problem-solving, authentic relationships, trust, clear expectations, job satisfaction, and fairness, just to name a few.
“Trust happens when leaders are transparent,” the influential leader Jack Welch famously said. Teams with a high level of trust in their leader can perform more effectively due to their clear communication and authentic relationships. Less than half of employees feel they can trust their boss, meaning most have work to do in this area!
Further, in times of crisis and unpredictability, transparent leaders give people a sense of reassurance. They let them know how the business may shift and evolve rather than leaving them in the dark. Thus, leaders who have exercised transparency throughout the pandemic have given their people a sense of security in uncertain times.
Transparency in leadership encourages employees to use more creativity in their daily work. The trust they have in their leader promotes open communication, while their access to pertinent information empowers them to generate the best solutions to problems. Having equal access to information that is relevant to them instills a sense of fairness in the workplace that increases job satisfaction and boosts morale.
Instilling a culture shift
Transparency in a leader also encourages transparency in all directions among all team members. “Transparency breeds transparency and, if allowed, it can spread to become part of the organizational culture,” writes the Myers-Briggs Company.
How to foster transparency as a leader
Now that you understand the importance of transparency, how can you take action to grow it? Here are four steps you can take to become a more transparent leader who promotes a culture of transparency in your organization.
Take a common-sense approach.
Strive to be transparent about the big-picture things, but beware of TMI (too much information). You probably don’t need to know how your direct reports carried out every step of their latest project, which would feel like micromanaging. Model transparency about the things that affect the team and ask for transparency about the same types of things in turn, but don’t get bogged down by too much information.
Own your actions and how they affect others in both small and large ways. If you made a mistake, apologize. In a team meeting, express what you could have done better on your latest initiative. Show how you’re acting upon the feedback others give you about your performance.
Build a culture of forgiveness and learning.
At the same time, work to instill a mindset of forgiveness for mistakes and shortcomings. When they come to light, focus on what you can learn rather than trying to make an example of someone (even yourself!). Model how to be forgiving toward yourself while learning how to do things better in the future.
Convey your vision to the group.
Being transparent about your vision will help the team rally around it more completely. Practice a weekly exercise in which you take five minutes to ask yourself how you’ll convey your broader vision to the team throughout the week. Write two ideas down on sticky notes and post them by your desk. Do this either at the end or beginning of the week so it will be fresh in your mind.
Going beyond transparency
Many people focus on what happened rather than why it happened in their efforts to become transparent. Instead, dig deeper to look at why it happened, too. Focusing too much on the what and not on the why can lead to bigger problems, like creating a blaming culture. Strive to not just specify what has happened but also to understand the root causes and reflect on how to mitigate them. That’s the real goal of transparency—gaining a more in-depth understanding of how your organization’s people and processes function. As leaders take action to gain this insight, they’ll earn the respect and loyalty of their teams!