I believe in it — transparency. I believe that it should be the cornerstone in any leader’s foundation. Transparency leads to consistency which leads to increasing trust from those in your organization. And to be an effective leader one needs to have the trust of those whom they hope to lead.
Leaders who are not transparent aren’t the kind of people we should be following. We can all probably think of people in leadership positions who change their words and actions depending on who they are speaking with at any particular moment. You never really know what they believe and as a result you lose faith in them, trust in them and belief in them to work with you to move an agenda forward. You likely give up at some point and strike out on your own with feelings of disillusionment and frustration.
As I settle into my new role as Superintendent, I’ve spent some time thinking about what I need to be saying and doing to be transparent. It infiltrates my thinking and planning — as I sit in a business meeting, as I interact with colleagues informally in the office, as I meet district staff or stakeholders over coffee — I want to be known as a leader who is transparent.
But that got me wondering … what exactly does it mean to be transparent?
- Does it mean being open about everything?
- Does it mean sharing everything?
No — no, it doesn’t. Not only is it impossible to be open and share everything, it’s also incredibly unwise. There are all sorts of reasons why one wouldn’t share some information — an obvious one is the issue of privacy and confidentiality. For example, personal information about our students should only be shared with others for whom it is necessary to share that particular information — they might be counsellors, administrators or classroom teachers. But, it would be highly inappropriate to share certain information about a student with other students, other parents or the general public.
Transparency is one of those new ‘catch phrases’ that gets tossed around a lot these days. People talk about being transparent, but until recently I didn’t really stop and think about what it actually means to me. As I reflected, I began to settle on a few understandings that resonated with me. For me, it’s about …
- being truthful with my words and my actions;
- being respectful towards others;
- communicating clearly and consistently in a multitude of formats and media (hence, my twitter account @DaveWEberwein and my new blog);
- being able to make the difficult decisions after careful consideration of information;
- sharing the reasons for my decisions; and
- being accessible when others need my time.
Being transparent doesn’t necessarily translate into always being popular. Doing the right thing and clearly communicating your actions with others doesn’t always mean you’ll make everyone happy — and that’s OK. Being transparent is not always easy nor pain-free, but it’s critical if your goal is to be an effective leader.
For me, transparency is about clearly communicating the WHY to others:
- WHY are we doing something?
- WHY did we make that decision?
- WHY are we going in this direction?
As I look forward in our learning journey, I must remind myself to stay true to what is right, communicate as clearly as possible with others, and keep consistent with my words, my motives and my actions. Ensuring that I am transparent is absolutely critical to establishing myself in my new community, but even more importantly it is critical to why we are all here together — establishing the trust needed to move agendas forward like our renewed curriculum and learning paradigms.