The Art of Being Transparent: How to do it Effectively and Why it Matters

October 11, 2017

Deke Copenhaver

Leadership Focus is written by Deke Copenhaver, Principal with Copenhaver Consulting LLC. The former mayor of Augusta, a triathlete, writer and runner, Deke is focused on transforming great ideas into great actions.
In a world where trust in those in leadership positions is at an absolute premium, being transparent is one of the most fundamental tools for building trust and maximizing your impact as a decision maker. Whether you’re building a business, embarking on a foray into public service, or crusading for a cause you’re passionate about, trust in your leadership and your brand matters; once it’s undermined, it’s next to impossible to re-establish.

During my time as a public servant I realized early on the importance of information flow and the key role living a life online and in the public eye played in getting a message across to the people I served. I realized that having a major online presence and the media spotlight afforded me the opportunity to be as transparent as possible while building a strong level of public trust which contributed greatly to our citizenry re-electing me every time I ran.

A daily focus on being as transparent as possible in leadership positions is not an easy thing to achieve as it creates a level of accessibility which simply didn’t exist in previous generations and can at times be hard to maintain. However, if handled correctly, being a transparent and accessible leader will ultimately pay extraordinary dividends. With this in mind, here are five ways which should help you become more transparent in your leadership position while building bonds of trust with the people you serve.

1) Be authentic
Always remember to be authentic. Whether it be through social networking or any other form of communication, it’s important that the voice the people you serve or work with hear is yours and isn’t coming from a script or from someone responding for you.
2) Be proactive
A large part of being transparent in leadership positions is to be proactive in getting information out for consumption. In a world where most of us have become our own news sources, leaders of any have the opportunity to provide good information and accurate content to the people they serve daily. Keeping those you serve or work with in the loop on a regular basis helps create a sense of openness while fostering a greater sense of trust in your leadership.
3) Be accurate
In a world where leaders are forced to fight a constant battle with misinformation, making absolutely certain that any information you share is accurate is an absolute must. Even if the information you’re sharing is not good news, it’s vitally important that those in leadership positions paint a clear picture of any situation that may have an impact on their team or organization.
4) Be prepared
Focusing on being a transparent leader means being prepared to handle the tough questions. They’re always going to come if you maintain your openness and accessibility. Whether it be in front of your employees, your citizens or the media, it’s never a good thing for people in leadership positions to get caught like a deer in headlights. Anticipating the tough questions ahead of time goes a long way towards helping you to answer them as opposed to dodging them and undermining trust in your leadership.
5) Be honest
As simple as this may sound, it is absolutely the most essential part of being a transparent leader and building trust in those you serve. Being honest and sharing information that people need to hear as opposed to telling them what you think they want to hear can be difficult. However, it’s simply the right thing to do and is the best way to build trust in your leadership.

In today’s world, where people are more hungry for accurate information and strong leadership than they’ve ever been before, being an accessible, open and transparent leader is important in fostering a sense of trust in your leadership.

Ultimately, a commitment to being a transparent leader means having to work a little harder and to go the extra mile when it comes to information sharing. It's always been my experience, however, that if people trust you they’ll work with you. In the end success is never achieved by any one given individual, but rather is the result of a true team effort.

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