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A Life Well-Led: Why Honesty is so Valuable for Leadership

September 21, 2015
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Unfortunately, in today's business world, words like honesty and integrity are largely seen as buzzwords — lacking meaning or significance when they are ascribed to a company or corporation. While these words may sound intriguing coming from an executive's mouth, they are often regarded as empty promises meant to placate employees and investors. 

The truth is that honesty and transparency are essential, both in the success of our businesses and in our personal success as leaders. Recent research has found that the more honest and transparent a company's culture is, the more successful that business will become. Haley Bock, the CEO of Fierce Inc., explains in an article about transparency in leadership,

“In a 2011 Corporate Executive Board survey, organizations that successfully broke down barriers and eliminated the fear of retaliation for honest feedback substantially outperformed their peers, delivering 7.9 percent total shareholder return compared with 2.1 percent at other companies.”

So why is this honest and transparent approach so pivotal for our success? Let's explore.

Tackling the Truth

In any leadership role, the truth is one of our most valuable assets. If our businesses are only as successful as the team that stands behind our product, then honesty and transparency with our colleagues becomes the most important quality for leaders to obtain. Our business hinges on the work of our teams, and when teams don't trust their leader, the final product suffers.

In order for a company to function well, everyone must be on the same page. If leaders don't take the time and effort to be open about their vision and mission, employees can't be reasonably expected to trust that their own personal efforts are meaningful to the group. Demonstrating trust is one of the most powerful ways of instilling passion for work in the teams we work with. As leadership experts Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner explain, honesty in leadership is crucial for achieving significant influence:

“[We] find honesty to be the most important trait of effective leaders. In its absence, leaders lack credibility, and their ability to influence others is diminished.”

Being honest and open, even in difficult circumstances, is one of the core components of building a successful business. Without demonstrating our honesty, we can't expect customers or employees to support us in our goals. 

Trusting Transparency

One lesson I've learned is that building trust and transparency into a company brand is extremely important, not only for our employees, but for clients as well. As business leaders, our clients and customers want to know the direction of their company and its vision for moving forward, and are more than willing to do the research to ensure that this is the case. Robert Craven, CEO of MegaFood, explains in an article for Entrepreneur why transparency in business should be the norm:

“Withholding or cleverly reshaping information is no longer a viable option for this new era of consumers who are savvier than any generation before them and for whom skepticism seems to be a default setting. In order to build brand loyalty, companies need to first build trust.”

No one wants to be a member of a company where they feel disconnected from the mission, and the same philosophy holds true for customers.

How Honesty Helps

Building a transparent culture and company can help facilitate all of the following:

1. Rapid Problem Solving

When leaders don’t worry about appearing weak, their teams can step in and help. Why do we hire highly skilled employees if we can’t ask for their help when problems arise? When we are open about challenges that our business is facing, the more likely we are to find a collaborative solution quickly.

2. Efficient Talent Acquisition 

Openness results in a better company culture. In today’s digital age, the best and brightest job seekers seek companies that value transparency in their offices and do their research beforehand. When we're known as having a collaborative and transparent culture, we're able to attract the best and brightest.

3. Trust In Leadership

As a leader, one of the most difficult situations is when we make a decision only to hear whispers of doubt and dissent echoing through the company. When we develop and practice honest style of leadership, employees are more likely to trust and support our vision. And when we acknowledge their value, we earn their trust. 

Leadership Lessons

Dwight Eisenhower once said,

"I know only one method of operation. To be as honest with others as I am with myself."

I think we can all learn from his words and apply them to our current endeavors, whether in customer acquisition or internal business practices. As a Leadership school graduate, I have learned that real leadership does not come from giving inspiring speeches or pushing people beyond their limits. Instead, I find that leadership is about serving others to empower them to achieve success, and it's this philosophy that has guided our practices at Lindsey & Lindsey, both in serving our colleagues and our clients.

What traits or characteristics do you think are important for leaders to have? We want to hear them! Tweet them to us @Lindsey2Wealth!