When I started in ministry, I was anything but trans- parent. I was afraid of being exposed.
It was not that I was doing anything corrupt. I was fearful people would see me as not being perfect.
Nobody expected perfection – except me.
It took me a long time to learn that no one person can
know everything. And, that people relate better to hon-
estly imperfect colleagues rather than
apparently perfect ones. In fact, I am
still a work in progress
What about corporate leaders on
Bay Street and Wall Street? Most North
Americans would say they have been
anything but transparent. The stories
that make headlines are often about hidden corruption,
bad ethics and white-collar crime. Even non-profits and
people of faith have not been immune.
Christians agree that one thing exceptional leaders do
is ensure the law is followed. But meeting the expectations of regulatory bodies – is that all that’s required for
If we limit ourselves to such a narrow definition, we
miss a dimension of transparent leadership that can have
equal or more effect on organizations – sharing yourself.
Of course, everything in our personal lives should not
be an open book at work, and we need to respect that.
There are some things people just do not need to know.
We need to be able to discern what to share, when to share
it and how to share it.
That said, sharing ourselves is important because it affects and even changes those we work with. It is especially
important for those on an executive team, because they
have the greatest scope to define the core values, norms
and culture across the organization.
The journey toward transparent leadership, toward
making honesty and humility core values within your organization, involves numerous peaks and valleys. Being
willing to be wrong and learn from it is one of the keys to
successful change. But the rewards are significant.
At the organization I lead, transparent leadership has
The Gift of Transparent
Following Christ involves humility and
being open about our brokenness, even
as leaders in the workplace.
increased the credibility and level of influence of our organization. It has changed the nature and depth of our
relationships with all stakeholders. And it has allowed us
to accelerate our mission by reducing our fears of making mistakes, of failing, or admitting we do not know and
having to seek outside counsel.
It might appear that shifting a leadership style to be
more transparent would be easy for a seasoned leader,
someone who has already built their credibility and established their reputation.
But, as an emerging leader myself, I want my generation
to realize we do not have to wait until we’re seasoned. We
have an opportunity to change our culture here and now.
Many seasoned leaders already recognize it will be a
significant gift to leave transparent leadership as a legacy
to my generation. It seems an achievable goal when things
are going well. But the challenge for them is when they are
faced with daunting challenges. Can
they show us how to remain transparent while storms are raging all around?
In essence, transparent leadership
is knowing when and how to tell your
story. Our stories define our leadership – at least they should.
In interviewing leaders about their journeys, I have
been impressed with the passion they feel for their life
stories and the motivation their respective stories provide
them as leaders. None felt they were born leaders. None
believed they had the inborn characteristics, traits or style
of a leader. None felt they succeeded simply as a result of
trying to emulate other leaders.
Their stories, and the stories of all transparent leaders,
cover the full spectrum of life’s experiences.
So, what’s your life story?
All of us tell stories about ourselves. Stories define us.
When we stretch to share more of ourselves beyond simply our successes, we demonstrate a spirit of generosity
and a true sign of humility – and inspire others to do so
as well. We need to acknowledge our brokenness to fulfill
God’s purpose for us (and not in a spirit of self-righteousness, or for personal or organizational gain).
Following Christ is what enables and motivates us to
live a more transparent life. It’s actually one of the deepest
and most personal forms of worship. Imagine how it can
transform the leadership landscape, enabling each of us
to fulfill our unique calling. FT
ALANA WALKer CArPeN Ter of Toronto is CEO of
Intriciti, an organization that inspires business leaders
to integrate faith and business ( www.intriciti.ca).
businessmatters n BY ALANA WALKER CARpEN TER
We have an opportunity
to change our culture
here and now.