Leadership and Transparency

Leadership. This topic has been on my mind lately, mainly because my experiences as a leader at work are shifting how I think about accountability, transparency, and responsibility. I think there’s a “leadership series” in my blog’s future. Given the events of the week in the US, transparency has risen to the top of the list.

Events? Well, President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey this week. In the spirit of transparency, as soon as Comey made his first public statements about reopening the Clinton email investigation in the summer of 2016, I googled if the President could fire the Director of the FBI. The answer was yes AND it’s messy and fraught with political peril. Peril? Well yes, it’s unlimited ammunition for any cover-up and/or conspiracy theory enthusiasts to run amok with on any current or future investigation.

I thought Comey needed to go then and I think he needs to go now – not because he isn’t honest, but because he speaks to a nation without regard or accountability for the implications. Leadership requires a maturity to assess what information the people you are leading can handle and when and how to best share without creating unnecessary angst or chaos. Effective leaders and governments are able discern how to be honest and transparent – how to walk the fine line between secrecy and information overload.

I find a key ingredient to creating transparency is trust. People must trust their leader to tell them what they do and do not need to know. Ethics are also a major factor here… but we’ll save trust and ethics for another post.

So how much transparency should a leader have? Too much transparency and we risk being exposed to half-truths, misinformation, and needless stress. Too little and we are not able to trust the decisions being made are in our individual or collective best interest.

In 1993, Van Halen released a great video for Right Now. It was a provocative and powerful challenge to think about what is happening in this moment. What we know, what we don’t, what we avoid, what’s convenient, what’s difficult… a masterpiece in 4 minutes and 19 seconds. My favorite clip is somewhere around 3:40… “right now, our government is doing things we think only other countries do”.

How much to do you want to know?

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