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Transparency versus Vulnerability


Transparent Leadership

Brene Brown’s work on vulnerability has been showing up frequently in the news and on social media. I enjoy her work tremendously and am aligned with much of her research and her vision around what is needed by leadership. I prefer the word transparency rather than vulnerability; vulnerability seems almost too personal for many and often leans toward uncomfortable for myself and other leaders I work with. Like many others, I was taught growing up to keep my feelings “close to the vest,” raised in a generation that valued privacy over-sharing. I felt like I was always filtering what I really wanted to share and, ultimately, what I was feeling.

As leaders, we need to find a balance between transparency and sharing. It’s important to share our feelings on what’s going on in the world, especially during these challenging times. We can share our disappointment when a client chooses to take their work elsewhere. We can be transparent when we are uncomfortable with a decision. But through this transparency, we should stay positive and hopeful … which is where the balance comes in. Effective leaders find that balance.

I envision the balance like tracing paper. Remember that transparent paper you could put over a drawing to trace anything? Maybe because I was not (and still am not!) the best at drawing, I used to love tracing and find it a fitting analogy for transparent leadership. The tracing paper allowed you to see what was underneath without seeing all the color or details; similarly, we need to share our feelings as leaders without sharing too much. You do not have to disagree or openly condemn a corporate initiative or decision, but you can share your feelings about it with your team; for example, the decision makes you feel uncomfortable, but you are confident the team will work through it and you are committed to supporting the company guidelines. You don’t need every color and line underneath the tracing paper to get the overall picture.

Transparency helps you build trust. People feel safe and empowered to do their work knowing you will be upfront and share how the business or team is changing. Now more than ever – particularly with social media, which is sharing people’s feelings so frequently – we need to be more transparent as leaders.

Four ways to be more transparent with your leadership:

  • Brene Brown says “clear is kind.” Ask questions to understand what people are feeling or sharing with you. Give them feedback on how you are seeing them show up, and how it is impacting your work and the team overall.
  • Missing Conversations – what are the crucial conversations that you need to have with your team, peers, or your leader this week?
  • Share with your team how you are feeling about a challenging or big project.
  • Involve people more often in the decision-making process.

I would love to hear from you on your ideas on becoming a more transparent leader.

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