Managing People

The Importance of Transparency in Leadership

By Advanced Resources on July 7, 2020

When asked which work topics they care most about, most employees will rank transparency in their organization’s leadership near the top of their lists. Yet one-third of the respondents to one recent survey said “their employer is not always honest and truthful with them.” These findings are unfortunate, because transparency in leadership can spark impressive results that benefit everyone in the organization.

What Does it Mean to Lead With Transparency?

Transparency in leadership means keeping employees in the loop, sharing the good and the bad (while not oversharing), and welcoming honest feedback from team members. There should be no unpleasant surprises, no concerns around uncertainty, and no wishy-washy behavior that may weaken a leader’s reputation. Transparent leaders strive to practice what they preach, set crystal-clear expectations, and communicate effectively with every member of their teams.

Importance of Transparency

Leading with transparency requires a willingness to be honest and open with employees, even if doing so makes the leader feel somewhat vulnerable. When employees can see and evaluate everything a leader does, it’s essential that he or she leads the organization with integrity, in ways that are true to its values. In return, employees will give their loyalty and trust.

When someone leads with transparency, he or she sets a standard for the rest of the company to meet. The importance of transparency in leadership becomes more apparent as it fosters a workplace culture of open communication and accountable behavior for both employees and leaders.

The Benefits of Transparent Leadership

When a firm understands the importance of—and consistently implements—transparency in leadership, it can expect to see numerous benefits.

  • Greater Employee Advocacy

    When choosing to be open and honest with employees, a leader can help them feel valued by inviting their feedback. By showing them how much the organization values their contributions and opinions, a leader builds a foundation of trust and loyalty that nurtures greater employee advocacy—which in turn helps to build the employer’s brand. At the same time, showing interest and appreciation can also humanize leaders, making them more relatable in the eyes of their teams. By presenting themselves as actual human beings (instead of as mysterious bosses hidden behind intimidating office doors), transparent leaders will earn greater understanding and support from their employees, who will then be more likely to accept negative news or open themselves up to constructive feedback if they feel they have a personal connection with their leaders.

  • Well-Managed Expectations

    Withholding information often leads to misunderstandings and unmet expectations. Leading with transparency helps ensure that both employee expectations and employer expectations are appropriately set and fulfilled. With clear, open, and frequent communication, employees are less likely to make false assumptions about their jobs or their organizations.

  • Improved Employee Performance

    As greater transparency fosters greater employee advocacy, these highly engaged employees are more likely to achieve higher performance and productivity in their jobs.

How to Be a More Transparent Leader

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How to Be a More Transparent Leader

Becoming a more transparent leader may require some thoughtful changes to one’s managerial approach (and it will take some time for the benefits to spread throughout the organization), but the results will be well worth the effort.

  • Establish a consistent policy for leaders to be transparent about business developments and decisions.
  • Conduct regular meetings with the entire company, each department, and individuals to make sure that everyone is informed about new developments, that clear expectations have been set, and that every employee has the chance to stay in the loop.
  • Encourage employees to give honest feedback about company policies and recent changes or announcements. (Consider using an employee satisfaction survey for gathering this data.)
  • Adopt an open-door policy and ask team members in upper management to do the same.
  • Take the time to get to know employees and meet with them one on one. Use this time to form personal connections with employees and express a commitment to transparency.
Understanding the importance of transparency in leadership is the first step toward achieving it. When leaders make a personal commitment to greater transparency and start working toward it immediately, they—and their organizations—are already well on their way to reaping its benefits.

This article originally appeared in Advanced Resources' HR Insights Magazine.

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