Here’s a simple, transparent leadership idea

Transparent Leadership

Thought about this after therapy this morning, and wanted to share.

Most organizations are designed as a hierarchy, no? (Holacracy is cool, but it’s probably not there yet as a concept.) And, for better or worse, most organizations are silo’ed — there’s sales, there’s marketing, there’s IT, there’s HR, there’s Operations, there’s whatever works for your specific deal and what you’re trying to sell/produce/chase/give to the world. Usually, each silo has a hierarchy too — so there’s a VP or Director or SVP or C-whatever, and then there’s a couple of lieutenants to that person, then there’s some middle managers, and then there’s a bunch of rank-and-files. The dirty little secret of most divisions in a company is that those rank-and-files are usually closest to the end consumer, whereas the top dogs (the VP or whomever) is usually closest to the perks, partnerships, and revenue data. That’s a little bit of a disconnect.

What I mean by that: shouldn’t the person with the most strategic oversight of a division have more interaction with the people who buy the stuff that drives the revenue? You’d think so, but most companies aren’t organized this way.

OK, so that’s all a long intro to get here: how could people at the top of a hierarchy be a little more transparent around their leadership? I’ve written a little about “a culture of trust through transparency” before, and admittedly that all sounds like a bunch of hooey buzzwords, but this idea could work.

Here we go:

  • Most top, senior leaders have a few core issues that probably give them the most worry/anxiety
  • I’d assume most of these are about revenue or growth, but it varies by organization of course
  • One of the biggest problems of how we organize companies is that rank-and-files almost never know what the big issues are
  • Rank-and-files are supposed to execute, generally; the senior people are supposed to be “thinking” and “guiding” and “strategizing”
  • Thing is, as you know … this almost never happens.
  • Oftentimes senior leaders are the most in the weeds, which is largely because they fear exposing any incompetence
  • Rather, they’d like to focus on the things they already know and understand
  • Alright, so …

What if …

… once a month …

… the top leader in a silo brought everyone together …

… and said to them …

… “Here’s my biggest challenge right now. This is what I’m thinking about, and this is the context of the decision and what it could mean. Here’s a little backstory you need, too. Any ideas?”

Literally just stop thinking “these conversations can only exist at MY level!” and stop thinking “only the other senior leaders can help me with this!” Realize that organizational breakthroughs can, and often do, come from anywhere.

So put out your problems and what concerns you, and see what comes back. See if anyone down the chain has an idea that could really help solve something that you’re struggling with. In short:

  • Transparently present the problem
  • Empower and trust your entire silo/division to possibly come up with a solution

Most meetings led by senior people are pretty much a massive rehash of things most people in the room already know // a chance to shine sunshine up everyone’s butt about how great the team is doing, even if the CEO is on the leader about his/her silo’s performance. What if we just opened them up as transparent dialogues?

Ted Bauer


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