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Lessons in Leadership: Lesson #3 | Transparency


Continuing our ongoing series, Lessons in Leadership, today we talk about one of the most overlooked and key components of successful leadership—transparency. Before you begin to panic and think this means sharing all of your company’s numbers with every member of your team down to the unpaid college intern, take a deep breath; that simply isn’t the type of transparency we’re talking about here.

So what exactly are we talking about? In an ever-evolving tech-savvy workplace, the need for personal connection is growing higher and higher. Swirling in a cyclone of e-mails, text messages, YouTube videos, memos, instant messages, and more it has become so easy for us to dodge one another. In an effort to save time, energy and resources, we’ve taken a step back from authentically communicating with our teams. This face time is vital to not only creating the key bonds and trust among one another, but also for establishing yourself as a transparent leader. Transparency is about more than the numbers in your company books—it’s about trusting that you are who you say you are day in and day out.

With the evolution of social media, we’ve all begun to expect a newer and deeper level of transparency with most people in our lives, including those who lead us professionally. In the article, “5 Powerful Things Happen When a Leader is Transparent,” by Glenn Llopis on Forbes.com, he writes, “We are all living during a time when people want and expect their leaders to be more human, less perfect and at times a bit vulnerable – regardless of hierarchy or rank.”

Gone are the days of the fearless, lone-wolf leader. These days, being a transparent team player can help your organization solve problems faster, develop authentic relationships, and in turn create a deeper sense of trust company-wide. When your employees trust you and feel that they have an important role in what your company is trying to accomplish, they are far more likely to perform at their best and promote a positive work environment with other employees.

How do you make an effort to be more transparent with your team? Be aware of what you share. In an article from Colleen Sharen, she makes the keen observation that, “Transparency when the leader is feeling negative, lacking confidence or otherwise communicating anxiety about a situation can be a bad thing.” While she also acknowledges that showing some vulnerability does make leaders more approachable and relatable, it’s important to find the balance on this thin line. For example, if sales are down, try communicating that in a more positive manner. Rather than approaching your team to “vent” (read our article about “Support” for more on this topic), stay upbeat and approach them ready to find a solution. Instead of saying “Sales are down. We need to turn this around or else we’re all left without our jobs,” try, “We all know that sales are down this quarter. What do you all think we could be doing to turn this around? Is there something I can do as a leader to support this? Let’s get creative!” You’ve now invited your team to help find their own solution. You’ve empowered your team, and because your team is aware of the reality of the situation, they can more quickly provide accurate, strategic recommendations and together come up with a solution.

Transparency is a key component of trust, and an essential element of great leadership. If you’re thinking about a powerful way to encourage more transparency in your organization in the new year, consider a group drumming event to kick things off and unite, uplift and inspire your team. It just may be the face time your team was looking for. For more information, e-mail Natalie

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