Sunday, July 15, 2012

Transparent Leadership

If you have ever worked for a leader who is genuinely and intentionally transparent then you understand the freedom such a leadership style creates.  It is in part a freedom to take appropriate risks, but only in part.  More to the point, it is freedom to be honest, direct, accountable in a non-threatening manner, and to create.

While many transparent leaders may be naturally wired this way I do not believe this leadership style can be successful unless intentional in design and consistency.  A transparent leader must have confidence in himself or herself, trust in others, and establish an environment that encourages transparency on a broad scale.  These leaders can be recognized by the traits they exhibit.

Transparent Leaders Focus on Solving Problems:  Approaching failures as problem solving and learning opportunities allows those involved to objectively search for facts without assigning blame.  Accountability remains an important organizational value with the underlying goals of improving future outcomes through honest investigation and analysis.  When the root causes are out in the open everyone will know what the contributing factors were and who was responsible for them.  Blaming is not necessary, learning is mandatory. 

Transparent Leaders Value Candid Talk:  A common mistake in the midst of failure or conflict is the rush to move past the point of pain to re-establish a comfortable, non-threatening equilibrium.  This prematurely shuts down the kind of honest discourse that challenges assumptions and reveals root causes and future opportunities.  Respectful dialogue and relationships are key to creating an environment where candid talk, direct talk about important issues, is viewed as non-threatening. 

Transparent Leaders are Fully Engaged:  Leaders who “parachute in” to give motivational speeches, make urgent demands out of context or worse, embarrass or humiliate, put their own insecurities on full display.  Some may still value the full on autocratic leadership style but it can rarely be successful in today’s business world.  Teamwork and collaboration, the hallmarks of contemporary business, require a level of trust that can only be developed by being fully engaged, having the team’s best interest as first priority, and establishing a win-win environment.  Doing so requires that the leader be “present,” engaged, and focused on removing obstacles to success.

Transparent Leaders Share Leadership:  With a style that is focused on developing an environment that values accountability, candid dialogue and engagement; transparent leaders tend to trust team members with greater responsibility and freedom.  This allows others to take leadership roles themselves, helping to develop personal and organizational assets that strengthen the whole.  Releasing team members in this manner and allowing them to share in leading, including its challenges and rewards, encourages trust and the kind of shared respect that will serve well in tough circumstances.

Transparent Leaders Hire Well:  Choosing those you will partner with in a transparent organization is especially critical.  With increased transparency, trust and loyalty expectations of team members leaders must evaluate talent from a different perspective.  While intellect, training, experiences and education are always important factors, personal integrity traits take on greater importance.  Hiring the smartest candidate with the best experience background may not be the best option if you have questions about their commitment to the team.  To the old adage “hire the best and the brightest” you should add “and the most trusted.”

The transparent leadership style is not just about the leader’s personal make up.  True, some personality traits make it a more natural style for some than others.  But it is also a purposed style with specific values and goals, all of which can be developed and duplicated.  And that in one sense is the real value of the transparent leader – duplicating his or her value through leading and mentoring; developing new leaders who understand, appreciate, and seek to replicate transparent leadership.

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