Being a Transparent Leader

A comment I hear all the time is that leaders/managers/administrators/supervisors need to be more transparent. On the other hand, managers and supervisors say it is impossible to share everything. Not only does this imply that all information and decisions would be slowed by this open process, it also indicates that no information can be confidential. Here, then, is the dilemma. How can a manager/supervisor make timely and critical decisions, honor significant and legal confidentiality, and practice transparency; an important principle of "The Mutual Learning Model?"

I think we need to approach this from two perspectives; the concern of the employee or stakeholder who is asking for more transparency and from the manager/supervisor trying to be more transparent. As I listen closely to the employee or the stakeholder requesting more transparency, I'm not certain they are saying they need to know everything or that they need to be involved in every decision made within the organization. What I interpret from these discussions is that there is a lot of fear and anxiety about the future of the organization and the employee's or stakeholder's place in that future. I interpret this request for more transparency to mean several things;

1. Where is the organization headed? What is the vision for the future?

2. How are decisions made in the organization? What is the management style?

3. What do I need to know and do in order to share my perspective? How do I impact organizational decisions?

Unfortunately, many times the cry for more transparency gets misinterpreted as a desire for control of the outcome. This misinterpretation of desire for control, to predetermine the outcome, is not only impractical, it is very unhealthy for the organization.

From the manager's or supervisor's perspective the concern about rapid response and confidentiality are crucial. In a world of instant information and a need for immediate feedback, sharing all information with all employees and stakeholders, with the intent  to gain and consider their feedback before a decision can be made, is not practical. Also, the reality is that there are legal limitations on what information can and cannot be shared.

So how does a manager or supervisor meet the need for more transparency, while maintaining the confidentiality? Perhaps the definition of the principle of transparency, as used in "The Mutual Learning Model", can help. Being transparent in the role of a facilitative leader means sharing what you are thinking and feeling. A facilitative leader is being transparent when he or she shares the reasoning and intent underlying his or her statements or questions or actions. When a leader shares vision and strategy she or he is being transparent. The leader is sharing all relevant information about the situation, one of the strategies of "The Mutual Learning Model." By being transparent in this manner, the facilitative leader is addressing the need of employees and stakeholders to know where the organization is headed and how they can influence that movement.

Key to leading from a transparent perspective are one's assumptions. From "The Mutual Learning Model" perspective a transparent leader begins with the assumption that people's motives are pure and not suspect. And how does one develop this assumption if history has demonstrated something different?

In my next post I will explore the idea of moving away from "The Unilateral Control Model" to "The Mutual Learning Model". Until next time, keep pondering your thoughts and feelings about how to become more transparent and enjoy the great spring weather.