Expectations of Candor and Transparency

October 6, 2016

Expectations of Candor and Transparency

or anyone in the United States contemplating who they want to lead the nation, candor and transparency have become key attributes within our candidate evaluation. We ask ourselves, as does the media, who among the candidates can be trusted and how much; what substance lies behind the candor, and do we believe future actions will match today’s words? Too little transparency leads to concern about some underlying agenda; too much candor is associated with a shoot-from-the-hip temperament, and pop assessments of being narcissistic or unhinged.

None of this is new to those of us steeped in leadership assessment, development, and succession planning. Our profession has a rich history of carefully looking at leaders, the situations they encounter, and how they respond when the opportunity to do so arises. Many of us have assessed candor and transparency among potential leaders, while others have actively coached executives and developed programs to drive productive candor according to the situation at hand.

Our concern for candor and transparency isn’t limited to individuals; we look for this at an organizational level as well. Whatever you may think of the Consumer Financial Protection Board, its rise was partially due to a call for more transparency between financial organizations and their customers. The last time you purchased an automobile, you likely searched at least one website featuring transparency of pricing and fees. We may begin to think of candor and transparency as individual attributes, but quickly extend that to assess the credibility of organizations around us.

Pause for a moment of personal reflection: If you had the opportunity to build a new business from the ground up, how would candor and transparency fit within your guiding principles? Once at the helm, how would you assess the potential risk of too much candor? How would you balance being transparent with ensuring you and your team don’t give away company secrets and competitive advantage? What about fiduciary obligations to the company that require you to not share everything you know, outside select stakeholders? Clearly, this is not simply a black and white issue; more candor and transparency isn’t always better.

This issue of People + Strategy places a spotlight on candor and transparency issues fundamental to all leaders and organizations. We are fortunate to have the collaboration of two guest editors, Bruce Avolio, Ph.D., a respected research scientist and authority on the topic of leadership, and Brad Winn, Ph.D., a leader in executive education and a member of our editorial board. Together they have assembled an exciting range of articles, case studies, research, and insights. I hope this issue of People + Strategy becomes a resource for you to discuss candor and transparency where you work and with colleagues across your own organization.

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The Authors: 

Marc Sokol, Ph.D., is executive editor of People + Strategy and principal at Sage Consulting Resources. He can be reached at marc.sokol@sageHRD.com