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Leading with transparency

  • Adrian Grundy
  • Friday, 14 May 2021

Have you ever worked at a company where you were often left in the dark about what was going on? Maybe the head honchos' would portray that the business was doing great and just a week later drastic cost-cutting exercises start rolling out. 

Or maybe it was hard to do your job to your highest potential because the boss wasn’t up front with you about all of the goals you needed to achieve
You probably started to feel disengaged from that business and your job and ultimately, you left.

How your leadership communicates information sets the tone for the rest of your business, which has a very real impact on company culture.

Here is a few ways that a leader could build transparency into their leadership style

Show others that you care. Leaders must daily answer the unspoken question in employees' minds "Do you care about me?" When employees feel seen, heard, affirmed, and supported, that question turns into a conviction: "I will follow you because I know you will help me succeed."
Be vulnerable. Some leaders might wince at that phrase, thinking that it will somehow diminish them in the eyes of their employees. However, most employees greatly appreciate a leader who allows them to get to know their leader's authentic self. Vulnerability demonstrates sincerity of being and builds credibility. 

Be fiercely honest. In our work with employees across campus, at least half reveal that their leaders could be more honest. Today's employees place a premium on workplace environments that remove the fog of unknowns and deficiencies that usually creep into their minds about how decisions are made and the impact on them. When leaders hold onto information, for whatever reason, they erode trust. If leaders don't have all the pieces in place or are waiting on more data to come in, they should say so.

This might sound like common sense but lies and secrets break trust, while honesty and transparency build trust. And when trust is created, it leads to a heightened sense of security and better employee performance.


When companies develop a culture of transparency and trust, employees feel more invested, and the business can thrive. Team members are comfortable coming to leadership with questions, concerns and fresh ideas.

Transparent leadership means leading with openness and honesty with your team members and cultivating a culture where information can flow freely between people and teams. These types of leaders keep their team in the loop, share information freely, and invite open communication within their companies.


The reason transparency is so important is that it goes hand in hand with trust. You can’t have one without the other. And without them, your workplace culture and relationships will suffer. Lies and secrets break trust, while honesty and transparency build trust. And when trust is created, it leads to a heightened sense of security and better employee performance.

Below are some tips to help you level up and become a Transparent Leader


1. Confront an issue without placing blame. One reason people often avoid confrontation is because we’re afraid of alienating the other person, blaming them, or damaging the relationship. The reality is that when confrontation is approached skillfully, it has the power to create the opposite—a relationship built on trust and honesty. Easily discern between the issue that needs to be resolved and the person you’re confronting so that you can both leave the conversation feeling connected and on a path towards a solution.

2. Keep the conversation on track when someone denies, defends, or deflects. Confrontation can stir up some uncomfortable feelings and fear-based reactions, often referred to as the amygdala hijack. Whether you’re being confronted or confronting someone else, gain the confrontation skills that will allow you to stay connected to the other person, despite the natural human tendency to defend ourselves when we’re confronted.

3. Enrich relationships with honesty and respect. When someone is honest with us and willing to overcome the discomfort of confronting the issue, we learn to trust that they’ll tell us the truth. When leaders and employees know how to confront skillfully, it influences not only the one-on-one relationship but the health of the company culture as well. Keep each other’s best interest at heart while also addressing and resolving the issue at hand.


1. Avoid anonymous feedback. Imagine if the results came back from an anonymous survey and you learned that someone has an issue with you or your performance. Who is it, you might wonder, and why don’t they feel comfortable enough to tell me? If someone you work with has an issue with your performance, having the honest feedback conversation provides them, and you, an opportunity to build trust through transparency. Anonymous feedback leads to the opposite, causing people to hide their true feelings behind an “anonymous” label. Learn how to give honest feedback so that you can strengthen trust and come out from hiding.

2. Debunk the myth of positive vs. constructive feedback. There’s a myth that some feedback is constructive while other feedback is positive, and that’s just not true. All feedback should have the intention of being constructive and providing information that the other person can use to grow. If we know how to set intentions that are clear and go into a feedback conversation with the skills to address what’s working well and what isn’t, we naturally increase our own levels of transparency.

3. Request feedback. Whether you’re a leader or not, there’s gold to be discovered when you request feedback. This communicates to the other person, “I care what you think, and I want to know how I can improve” and invites them to be transparent with you. 

As more transparent, real-time communication has become the norm in our personal lives, we can clearly see the influence—and benefits—of this new way of connecting at work.

Expectations are rising across the board. Workers care about how the company operates. They want to understand more about how it operates. They expect leaders to capably field questions and if they dont know the answer to be honest and just say “I dont know the answer, but I will find out and come back to you”.

When you get people talking and sharing you open up a network for new ideas and better ways to run the business. While a business shouldn’t be expected to act on every suggestion, there is tremendous value in having a sense of scale when it comes to seeing how people operate and interact with each other. Are the right groups talking to each other? Are they sharing the right way? 

By promoting ways for employees to have a voice and for staying connected with each other, you are able to create not only a culture of transparency but a responsive organisation as well


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