Until fairly recently, leaders tended to consider themselves as belonging to a secret society where they made decisions on behalf of others who were not deemed important or competent enough to be involved in the decision making process or to be informed of the reasons as to why decisions were made. Those days are over.
You know the drill – the company’s leadership team goes off on a bosberaad or lekgotla and returns with the company’s new mission, vision, strategy and culture. This is all announced to employees in expensive roadshows with many fanfares, and everybody is expected to embrace the new stuff – or else …
In this new age of greater transparency, such thinking is now outdated.
There has been a worldwide shift to greater transparency which started when the Internet became available to the general public in the mid 90s and increased exponentially with the advent of social media.
Transparency is now the name of the game and it’s going to become increasingly necessary for leaders to be transparent if they want to win trust and enjoy any influence or success.
What is transparency? The easiest way to describe it is as “see through”. Transparent material allows one to see through it. Clear glass is transparent and so it is easy to see the contents inside a clear glass container. So, when a container is transparent and one can see everything inside it, there are no secrets and no unpleasant surprises. You can see exactly what the contents of the container are.
In the same way, when a person is transparent, you can “see” what’s inside them, so to speak – their thinking and actions are “visible” for all to see. There are no hidden agendas – what you see is what you get.
Understand this universal truth: When anybody is reluctant to provide reasons for decisions they have made, they have something to hide. They know that if their thinking were to be exposed to all and sundry, it would be criticised or exposed for what it is.
If, on the other hand, a leader knew they had sound reasons for decisions they have made, they would be quite happy to make these known as they would be confident that their reasons would stand up to being tested by public opinion.
Consider President Zuma’s recent reluctance and refusal to answer legitimate questions put to him in parliament. This was a classic case of a leader refusing to be transparent.
When President Zuma refused to answer the parliamentary questions, it became very clear that he does not wish to answer the questions because he has something to hide.
Transparency does not therefore work hand in hand only with honesty. It also works with efficiency, effectiveness, wisdom and sound thinking. If you aren’t able to engage in any of that, you’re also going to want to avoid being transparent.
When you make yourself transparent, you will win people’s trust and affection – yes, when people actually like you, they will be much more inclined to go the extra mile or two or three for you. And today, every extra mile counts.
So, start replacing all that opacity with transparency. Stop playing roles and be the same person you are to your family as the person you are to your colleagues at work. That’s also called being authentic.
As people start to see that what they see is what they get with you, they will trust you like never before. That will increase your influence and enhance your effectiveness as a leader.
Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine, @HRFuturemag, and he assists leaders to lead with purpose, compassion and self-mastery.