It’s late and I’m aboard a cross-country flight preparing to deliver an exciting new digital leadership business simulation for a group of executives as part of an immersive leadership development learning journey. My excitement is high because we’ve been working on this project for several months and the day is finally here to unveil a dynamic new approach toward building critical leadership skills.
To get here, we’ve conducted significant research, interviewed dozens of leaders, studied academic reports, and reflected on decades of work with global leaders. As we come toward the end of the second decade of the millennium, becoming a more transparent leader has been building momentum as an “it” topic, and now is on the forefront of a lot of thinking (and obviously training) about how to become a more effective leader. I think that’s quite unfortunate as being a transparent leader should never come and go as a best practice as to me it is the foundation of every day basic business leadership. There are an infinite number of reasons when business leaders should be more transparent but, in my opinion, there is only one reason that matters the most:
Transparency Equals Trust
Without transparency, there can be no trust and without trust, you can’t be an effective business leader. As part of this upcoming program and accompanying leadership simulation, we are going to work on the transparency muscles of our participants and develop that muscle to its fullest capacity. Very similar to body building, you have to start with something, and you can’t read books on building muscles; you actually have to lift weights which is what we are going to do with the business simulation.
I’m happy to share with the readers of this blog the five core ways that you can enhance your transparency and become a better leader starting tomorrow.
Embrace Authenticity, Openness, and Honesty – Don’t Try to Be Something You Aren’t
The most effective leaders don’t try to be something they are not. They don’t try to “act like a leader” and do things or say things that aren’t realistic or themselves. Embracing authenticity, openness, and honesty also makes you vulnerable and being vulnerable puts you in a position to be even more respected by the people you work with and lead.
Invest in and Nurture the Brand of You
The Brand of You is a complicated thing that must have a strategy, goals, and objectives. You must focus on creating and living the best possible perception of you that others see and work with. Being transparent is one of the primary drivers of The Brand of You. Make it one of your top priorities because just like in the real world, if you starve brand equity, or put in ingredients that aren’t natural and good, the brand will die.
Focus on Creating Alignment Through Mutual Trust and Respect
Leaders set and execute strategy and being aligned is a foundational element of execution. Alignment is a critical tool for effective business leaders and the only way to create true alignment is through dialogues and conversations with people who have trust and respect for you and each other. Again, that alignment is built through trust and transparency.
Provide the Details and Explain Why You Can’t When You Can’t
One of the worst mistakes a business leader can make is to not provide the details and the reasons for doing things. At the end of the day, leadership is equal to the execution of the business strategy and if people who report to you don’t have the details, they can’t execute.
Now, every once in a while, you as a leader can’t give the details. It could be a confidential matter such as a merger or something related to a health issue of another employee. Being transparent means that you must explain why you can’t share the information in an open and honest way.
Listen More than You Talk
One of the best leadership methods of being transparent is talking less that the people you lead. If you are able to show deep empathy and understanding of your direct reports by listening to what they have to say, you will be seen as truly authentic and real. When you do have something to say, your voice will be heard through the lens of transparency.