Just How Open Is Open Leadership?

Can of worms
(iStock photo )

The clarion call for leaders today is to become increasingly transparent.

People of the baby-boom generation seemed to accept the fact that leaders would tell us what we needed to know, when we needed to know it. It seems to me our need to know wasn't as fierce as it appears to be today.

Trailing generations of boomers are cranky and demanding about wide open leadership. The workforce today seems to have a need to know everything, always and right now, please. Transparency seems to be defined as "tell me everything you know, the minute you know it." Our teams today seem to demand that every can of worms be opened.

I understand transparency as something made visible by light shining through it. I understand transparency on a spiritual level better than I do in leadership. Does every work issue deserve to be lit up for revelation to others? Is it really healthy for team members to know what I know?

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At one time in my career I consulted with Jack Stack who wrote the book, The Great Game of Business. Jack was the owner of SRC (Springfield Remanufacturing Corporation). Jack believed in opening his books to all employees. The company held regular meetings to review P&Ls at a deep level. Each employee participated in profit sharing, so it was important to Jack for everyone to know the score of the game. His philosophy is deeper than that but the notion of financial transparency was important to the success of SRC.

As I look back 20 years ago to when this type of thinking was popular, I see more downside than clear benefits. I've learned the hard way that a workforce can't handle some truths. We can't possibly provide enough information to lead everyone to meaningful transparency (full light).

I've settled on business transparency in this way. I shed full light on relationships with people. If I'm asked questions about personal job performance, I won't dim the light. If I am asked questions about corporate plans and activities, I will shed appropriate light. If I'm asked questions about business matters that are simply nosy, I will shed no light. Employees come and go in every organization. Some corporate information simply doesn't belong in the hands of a competitor.

Light should reveal darkness. But every employee doesn't need the same quantity of light.

Transparent leaders shed the right light in the right places.


"But he who does the truth comes to the light, that it may be revealed that his deeds have been done in God" (John 3:21).


Dr. Steve Greene is the publisher and executive vice president of the media group at Charisma Media and executive producer of the Charisma Podcast Network. His book, Love Leads: The Spiritual Connection Between Your Relationships and Productivity, is now available.

Leaders, Dr. Greene wants to help you understand the spiritual connection between relationships and productivity. Read his new blog, here.

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Dr. Steve Greene is now sharing stories, teachings, and conversations with guests who lead with love on Love Leads, a new podcast. Listen now.

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