I’ve written before about transparency and how it’s a superpower in terms of leadership. But transparency is also a double-edged sword. The decisions that used to be made in secret behind closed office doors and conference rooms will now become public in days, if not hours. That means that you need to think about how you make decisions in a completely different way. In short: you need to assume that whatever decisions you make will eventually become front-page news - or perhaps available in Google.
Let me explain.
It used to be that as a leader, when you made a tough decision, you could count on the process and the decision to be held confidential. Take, for example, the area of compensation. Maybe you made decisions that resulted in some of your team making substantially more (or less) than their peers. Ages ago, this might have been for a variety of reasons, some of them not very acceptable in the public. That discrepancy wasn’t a big deal because no one would ever find out. This helps explain why women and minorities have historically been paid less than white men over time because leadership thought no one would ever know.
But those days are long gone.
The new standard leaders to apply is to assume that whatever you decide will become known to the entire organization-;and the public-;within days, if not hours or minutes. With the advent of the internet and social media, the impact of your decisions can ripple around the organization and the globe in no time at all.
So, the lesson for leaders is to act and make decisions that you can stand behind when they become public. It means acting ethically and holding yourself to a higher standard. One classic definition of ethics is that it’s what you do when nobody knows about it. But now, if you know everyone will know, how will you act?
I remember that early in my career, I would go visit my parents in New Jersey. I would drive a few hours down the coast from Connecticut and then head back before dawn on Monday. And I remember there was this traffic light at the end of their street. There was more than one occasion when, at 3 a.m., that light was red. No one was around at that time; no cars were coming. It would be the easiest thing in the world to blow through that light. But you know what: I never did. I wanted to do the right thing even if nobody was looking. And trust me, I badly want to get going on my long drive north, it was incredibly tempting.
You should apply that same kind of thinking when it comes to the kinds of decisions you make inside your business-;whether they impact payroll, hiring decisions, partnerships, and beyond. If you printed out your entire payroll and taped it up next to the coffee machine for everyone to see, would you feel good about it? You should and should be able to defend every decision with your head held high.
If you don’t feel comfortable about something, listen to that feeling. Because if you act on it, you might find yourself regretting it in a very public way later on. It really forces all of us leaders to operate to a higher standard and this is a very good thing.
So, as a leader, embrace the superpower of transparency-;and recognize that it can also burn you if you aren’t acting in an ethical manner. The days of secrecy are over. You will be held accountable for your decisions. Don’t fight it; join it. Make the best decisions you can and be ready to stand behind them. If you do that well, you’ll find that you can build incredible trust and loyalty among your team.