01 Mar 2019 | 5 min read

Transparent Leadership

Transparency has become a buzzword in today’s online environment. It’s become a synonym of authenticity, and we use it to describe leaders and organizations that we deem trustworthy because of their openness.

On our leadership podcast, we recently spoke with Matt Perkins from The Family Blend. After losing his wife of over 20 years to cancer, Matt found himself in a position of leading while walking through grief. He was responsible for leading musicians, singers, volunteers, and employees, in addition to caring for his two teenage daughters. Life hit hard, and he was forced to lead from a posture of brokenness.

Being transparent was key to Matt’s journey to healing.

Part of that transparency was letting the mask fall away and showing followers his real struggles.

“Even in the craziness of life and my schedule, it was okay to be me…to be who I was. I didn’t have to pretend and put on this ministry mask and go, “Oh no, bless God, everything’s fine!” It wasn’t fine. It sucked. Life was difficult, and that was okay. I didn’t have to try and pretend.”

Matt Perkins

In addition to helping his healing process, Matt’s authenticity actually served to connect him further to his team members. Research done by Avolio and Gardner shows that transparency leads to authentic relationships between leaders and followers and in turn, develops stronger relationships built on trust.

Here are a few attributes of transparent leaders.

Transparent leaders are honest

Honesty is one of the most valued leadership qualities, favored by 89% of respondents in a survey of over 100,000 people. Transparent leaders are honest with their followers, with their peers and most importantly, with themselves. Transparency requires self-awareness and self-honesty. It forces a leader to understand their faults, struggles, and fears and to face them head-on.

Transparent leaders set boundaries

Healthy leaders have limits on who they confide in. We’ve mentioned before that people can tell when you are being fake. Although a transparent leader doesn’t hide their struggles or emotions, they should be careful who they share with by setting boundaries. In the podcast, Matt said that he didn’t hide the fact that he was having a rough time after his wife died. Did he show some of those emotions in front of his team? Absolutely, yes. Did he get into long, in-depth conversations with the whole team? No. Matt was surrounded by a small group of close friends who walked with him during his journey through grief. He also saw a professional counselor.

As leaders, we may worry that boundaries are selfish, or feel guilty and afraid when we put them in place. However, barriers are actually very healthy. According to Drs. Townsend and Cloud, boundaries give us permission to evaluate our feelings, protect ourselves, avoid external/internal pressures, experience safety, and validate our self-ownership.

Transparent leaders are humble

Transparency often reveals our struggles and imperfections. It can be difficult for leaders to admit they aren’t perfect. They lead with authenticity because they have chosen to build relationships over presenting themselves a certain way to their followers.

According to Glenn Llopis, “People want to relate to its [the organization’s] leaders. People want to know that their leaders have experienced the same problems and/or how they have overcome personal hardships.”