Transparency & The Five Traits of a Transparent Leader

Executive Presence: Transparency 

The Five Traits of a Transparent Leader

Sherpa’s Definition of Transparency: Authentic, truthful, open, straightforward.

The only constant in life is change. When there is change in any organization, transparency is a must. People want to know what’s going on around them. For a leader, transparency is when you are able to share the right information in the right way, at the right time and with the right people.

Transparency means letting people see what lies under your surface, what you are thinking and why you do the things you do.

Transparent leaders:

o Don’t hide who they are or what they think (visibility)
o Are considerate and aware of others’ fears and concerns (empathy)
o Are authentic, genuine, open for discussion and open to criticism (vulnerability)
o Are straightforward, discreet and candid (integrity)
o Encourage team involvement and decision-making and seek other people’s opinions (empowerment)

The currency of leadership is credibility. The more people trust your motives and intentions, the more influence you will build with them. Being transparent about these things is how you can increase their sense of trust.

Based on our many years as Sherpa Coaches working with clients, we have identified five traits of a transparent leader:

1. VISIBILITY:  Being Available

  • communicating clearly and often and being accessible to your people to give direction, guidance, help or correction when needed

 2. EMPATHY:  Being Understanding of People’s Concerns and Fears

  • awareness and caring for what your people are going through and conveying genuine concern for their success and well-being, utilizing people and not using them

3. VULNERABILITY:  Being Open to Challenges and Criticism

  • letting people know you don’t have all the answers and are open to questions and corrections; admitting when you’ve made a mistake

4. INTEGRITY:  Being Trustworthy

  • setting an example of consistent and predictable honesty; having your words believed, earning people’s confidence and knowing what to say about people

5. EMPOWERMENT:  Being Focused on Serving your Team

  • giving your people the freedom and opportunity to perform at the highest level of which they are capable and helping them grow, resulting in maximizing the team’s performance

Notice that each definition above begins with “being.” There you see one of the secrets of transparency: It begins not with what you do but, with who you are. Being comes before doing.

A leader who demonstrates these facets of transparency creates a team whose members have all they need in order to be all-in.

They buy-in to the purposes and values the leader outlines and become truth-tellers, not afraid to say what they really think. They unleash their strengths, talents and energies toward the common goal. Transparency thus sets the stage for excellent performance.

Take time to ponder this: What transparency traits do you demonstrate as a leader? What trait, if any, are you lacking? Are you all-in as a leader?


Like what you just read? This is an excerpt from Tim Stevenson & Brenda Corbett’s Executive Presence: Transparency workbook. You can purchase this workbook along with the rest of the Executive Presence series workbooks here.

If you are also interested in taking a deeper dive into learning about all ten Executive Presence (EP) traits AND receiving six, one-hour follow up coaching sessions focusing on your EP trait of choice, check out our upcoming Virtual Executive Presence Summit on Thursday, September 24th from 1-4pm ET

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