What is transparent leadership in an organization, and how to ensure it?

Zane Franke 22.12.2022

A decent salary and good benefits are not enough to keep your employees satisfied and motivated at their job. In order to create a well-functioning workplace, you’ll need to introduce transparent leadership within your organization. 

But what is transparent leadership, and how to ensure it? Let’s talk about it.

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What is transparent leadership, and what are its benefits?

Transparent leaders are reliable and trustworthy but walk a fine line between being open and oversharing with their staff. Leading with transparency does not mean telling your employees everything about the organization but rather sharing crucial information that is necessary for their success. 

The need for transparency stems from employees wanting more clarity and truth within the workplace, and that begins even before they get the job — according to beqom’s 2022 Compensation and Culture Report, 81% of employees are more likely to apply for a job if the company is transparent about the benefits from the get-go. 

In general, workers have grown tired of being just a cog in the machine and want to be a part of a work environment where transparency is a priority, as transparency allows them to build trust and meaningful relationships with their higher-ups and peers. Employees are not robots — feeling connected to the people you work with keeps you motivated to perform well and genuinely desire organizational growth. 

transparent leadership

The job of transparent managers is to ensure there are no unpleasant surprises that might hinder the success of the team and that its members feel empowered to make a substantial difference with their efforts. In return, they get better performance and highly engaged employees that understand how the organization functions, where it is headed, and feel motivated to stay loyal to it. 

But how exactly to do that job? You’ve got the questions, we’ve got the answers!

How to ensure transparent leadership?

While transparency might seem challenging to execute when the work that leadership does can be confidential, it is the core element of building a healthy company culture. We’ve put together five ways to accomplish workplace transparency and leverage it to your benefit.

1. Be on the same page

If you want to introduce transparent practices in your organization, the first step in the right direction is making sure leadership on all levels is on the same page. It is not enough that the CEO of the company values transparency, all managers and team leaders should subscribe to the same organizational values and actively work to implement them. 

Alignment within the leadership creates a shared sense of purpose and builds the foundation of a system that functions in favor of teamwork rather than the needs of individuals. The expectation for transparency should be clear, consistent, and go in both directions — both managers reporting to their supervisors and lower-standing employees receiving information from their higher-ups. 

Having everyone on the same page simply eliminates room for confusion and provides employees with assurance that transparency is valued across the whole organization, not just in the minds of their direct supervisor or the CEO.

2. Welcome feedback

If you want to lead with transparency, creating space for open and frequent communication is a must. Schedule regular check-ins with employees and make sure they feel safe to provide feedback in an honest (but respectful) way. 

transparent leadership

Establish multiple kinds of feedback channels as well to provide a variety of convenient options. For example, set up a chance to give feedback on an individual one-on-one basis, bring up issues and ideas as a group, or perhaps some still don’t feel comfortable attaching their name to the suggestions they have, so an anonymous channel might also be worth considering.

Welcoming feedback cultivates progress and learning opportunities, boosts morale, and initiates meaningful conversations that lead to a more transparent workplace overall.

3. Transparency goes both ways

Being a transparent manager not only means welcoming open communication but also initiating it. Show your employees that you care about them on an individual level and that it is important for you to share what is going on within the organization, so they can feel more secure and confident.

Sometimes having an open door is not enough, and leaders need to make sure they frequently check in on their employees or provide progress updates to keep everyone in the loop. Don’t keep your employees in the dark — give them the information they need to know to succeed because the more knowledge they have, the better they can understand the business and where it is heading.

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4. Encourage collaboration and decision-making

When crucial information is accessible, employees feel empowered to make important decisions on their own. A transparent leader will encourage collaboration among staff members and trust them with making the right call. 

Knowing that employee input is wanted, and that they are trusted with decision-making is another factor that facilitates values that are based on transparency. 

5. Embrace the good and the bad

For most people, sharing something positive is far easier than expressing something negative. It is inevitable that conflict or misunderstandings will arise, and in order to mitigate that, transparent managers need to embrace uncomfortable situations.

Each individual brings a different perspective to the table, and it is the manager’s role to bring those perspectives together and find common ground that will improve the work environment. Establishing an expectation that disagreements or difficult conversations can be used as an opportunity to learn from others, look at problems from different perspectives, and grow from the experience will positively contribute to the transparency culture in the workplace. 

transparent leaders

Remember to set boundaries

As mentioned earlier, a transparent leader doesn’t have to share absolutely everything. While transparent leadership within an organization builds trust, meaningful connections, empowers and motivates employees, as well as leads to better performance and employee retention, certain boundaries need to be set in place about sharing information with others. 

Understand what boundaries are important to you and talk to your employees about their own limits. No matter how you decide to go about it, transparency is not about abandoning caution and wearing one’s heart on their sleeve but rather focusing on straightforward and effective communication. And, if you find your team in a conflict, remember to welcome constructive rather than insensitive criticism because a transparent workplace is still a professional workplace.

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