I’m afraid that this may come across as a bit of a rant, but I’ve reached the point that whenever a leader starts invoking “transparency” like a mantra, I assume that we’ll be seeing less and less of it.
So many senior managers and executives, public officials, and non-profit directors yammer endlessly about their commitment to transparency, especially when they assume their new positions. Their loyal subjects — worker bees, voters, and other everyday stakeholders — nod their heads approvingly, with renewed hope that positive change is in the air. My gosh, this time will be different. We’ll finally know what’s going on. We’ll be a part of it!
Often much sooner than later, a certain dissonance creeps into the rank-and-file. Hmm, our Great Leader keeps talking about transparency, but why don’t we know the details about what’s going on? The reality doesn’t seem to be matching the rhetoric.
Maybe someone has the temerity to raise this discomfort at a staff meeting, town hall forum, or coffee hour. More often than not, the response will be a defensive one, perhaps with an explanation that would make George Orwell’s head spin. I’m being transparent by telling you that I choose not to share this with you!
Eventually, the Great Leader stops using the T word. It’s passé, a term of the past (i.e., beyond a year after the Great Leader’s arrival), and at this point unnecessary. Business as usual is once again the norm, except it’s possible that there’s even less transparency than ever before. That truth will become, uh, transparent to most, but by then the options for doing anything about it will be limited.
For my less cynical take on transparency, see: Transparency may be a “win-win,” but too many organizational leaders don’t understand this (2014)
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