In a world where we have been conditioned to always be careful of what we say for the sake of not offending someone the value of transparency in leadership is so easily lost. We spin things just enough to make it sound better than it really is. Most of the time it starts out very small, but then it grows into a behavior of self preservation and then even self promotion. We don’t want people to know what is really going on for fear it could damage our reputation. So, we end up promoting all the really good things while neglecting the areas that need improvement or completely changed. We use statistics to back up our idea that we have healthy organisations or churches. We cover it up in the guise of being a good leader or a good communicator. You really don’t need to look too far to see how bad things are. Just look at the current politics. Its become part of the culture and it’s worked it’s way into the church.
In the church it may come out in any one of these situations: low offerings, staff members leaving, attendance, number of members, success of events, reaching the lost, small groups, discipleship, etc. In your organisation it could be about your product, program, recruiting, profits(for non profits where the money is going), ROI, etc. Really the lists go on. Pick any one of these and ask how transparent are you?
Do we spin it just enough to make it look a little better or not that bad? And then we pound the vision to death and share stories around it, because we all know that “without vision the people will parish!”(insert sarcasm). From the outside everything looks pretty good, but on the inside people are tired and burning out. So what is the harm in being completely transparent here? Why not just say what is really going on? FEAR!!! More people will leave, investors will back out ,and more people will need to get laid off. I’ve seen it happen over and over.
There could be multiple reasons why these things are happening, but what happened to the value of transparency? I believe people long for it. It’s refreshing. A leader that is transparent is a leader that is vulnerable. Usually vulnerability and leadership are not two words that seem to go together. But neither is servant and leader. A lack of transparency erodes trust. A lack of trust looses your ability to have influence. If you have no influence you cannot lead.
When we cover things up or smooth things over under the guise of leadership and good communication we are not leading. We are being dishonest. If you are a transparent leader, then yes, you are vulnerable. And that is pretty risky because people may not like you. People may not think you are strong enough. And you could loose your job. But when you are vulnerable people see you as human and one of them. You communicate with authenticity and people will trust you. And it is when you are one of them, that is when you can lead them. The older I get the more I’ve come to believe that the culture you create speaks louder than the vision you communicate.
I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve done it. I’ve smoothed things over and made things look better than they are. It works for a little while but then it falls apart. I’m on a journey to lean hard into transparency. I believe the transparency factor is a game changer.
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”