Over the past few years, more and more businesses have shifted to a more transparent work environment. An environment where corporate or organizational culture is shared more openly through the behaviors of its leaders as well as its employees. This type of transparency has become the new gold star of businesses, not only as it relates to business ethics, but also as a key building block for overall business success.
According to Forbes magazine, business transparency is the process of being open, honest, and straightforward about various company operations … when something goes wrong in business, transparent companies don’t try to hide it. Instead, they’re upfront about the issue. This creates brand trust and facilitates more effective communication and social responsibility.
In order for a business to operate with transparency, leaders must be able to embody and demonstrate on a day-to-day basis what their values are and how they integrate them into the organization’s culture.
One of today’s paradigm-shifting management styles is called Management through Authenticity or Authentic Leadership. This style of leadership encourages leaders to be more genuine, self-aware and transparent. No matter who or what you manage, transparency and authenticity are the keys.
So, what exactly is transparency? Let’s look at how this word is defined in the dictionary. This will give us a more accurate foundation upon which to build our understanding. Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines “transparency” as the condition of being transparent. Well, that’s helpful. So how is “transparent” defined? Merriam Webster says transparent is allowing light to pass through so that objects behind can be distinctly seen. Also easy to perceive to detect. It comes from old Medieval Latin “shining through.” It would seem then that the general meaning, for our purposes here, is being real and genuine, true and accurate; letting your real self or the real issues shine through.
This understanding fits in with what Eckhart Tolle says about transparency: “When someone becomes transparent, then something shines through that person that has nothing to do with the person or any of his or her personal history. What is required is becoming so transparent that the self or ego dissolves”
Needless to say, the “ego dissolves” is the biggest part of this equation, don’t you think?
Part of being transparent is also the process of dropping the pretentions, protections and affectations and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable; to step out with our real self hanging out. From a management style perspective, this means not being afraid to show our humanness, and to find common ground with others, no matter their status in the company or their professional relationship to us.
This type of vulnerability brings us a twofold experience: fear and then confidence.
First, fear, especially in the beginning, because we are frightened of what someone might think: they might think bad of us or not like us, or make fun of us, or make us feel diminished somehow if we state our truth without compunction.
The fear is followed by confidence and then satisfaction, because when we grow up, when we become mentally and spiritually healthy, we know that we are not in the world to live up to anyone else’s expectations, right? How many times have we heard that in our life? With a transparent management perspective, we realize that our customers, as well as our employees, co-workers and/or bosses, or really anyone else, are not in the world to live up to our expectations.
Next, we then work with others to help them determine what their expectations are for themselves and correspond that with their job description goals. When those two are aligned, people are motivated to perform better because they are engaged in creating success, both for themselves and for the business.
Now, sometimes we have to make a shift to be able to communicate effectively with our co-workers. If we want people to hear what we have to say, we may have to conform more. This is more so in a business situation or structure, yet we can still be ourselves without feeling like we have given up something, so long as we are conscious of the choices we are making about being ourselves.
For example, when I was an attorney, I dressed very professionally so that people would not be distracted by what I was wearing or what I looked like. Instead they would simply listen to me. I fit the part. Even though a suit is not my first choice of attire, it was still me, the true authentic, transparent me. I chose to conform to the visual expectation people have of attorneys because I knew it would facilitate more effective communication.
Becoming a more transparent leader, no matter what business or organization we conduct, is part Enlightened Leadership. It does not matter what our job title is, being able to connect with someone in a professional setting in a supportive, encouraging, authentic and transparent manner can positively impact the bottom line. It facilitates healthy, strong relationships that enable open communication, honesty, admitting mistakes and fostering respect. All of these benefits lead to greater employee retention, happier clients and customers, and ultimately to greater net profits.