That’s the title of my piece in the fall 2007 issue of Leader to Leader magazine. Not available online. The magazine version has pieces by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller, Jeffrey Pfeffer, Jack Stahl, and others. I’m the least distinguished contributor by far! Excerpt from me:
Are we on the brink of a more honest, open society? I think so. Why? I believe we’re entering the age of transparency.
Whether we like it or not, information about our careers, interests, biases, voting patterns, and maybe even our love life (God forbid!) will be all be accessible online.
Many people choose to disclose this information already on social networks like MySpace. We volunteer this information because the loss of privacy is a small price to pay when you consider the benefits. It’s now possible to connect with people around the world who share the same interest or geography or disease in ways never possible before. For my generation in particular, privacy is an antiquated concept.
And it’s not just teens who are becoming transparent. Companies are under increasing pressure to provide more information to shareholders. Journalists are under increasing pressure to disclose biases and post full interview transcripts. Politicians and public officials now detail the exact sources of every campaign dollar, and some even maintain blogs.
What does the age of transparency mean to leaders and effective leadership in general? First, better to choose transparency than be forced the hand. When you disclose biases, vulnerabilities, mistakes, and good and bad news equally, you build trust with your constituents. Second, assholes will be exposed more frequently – so be nice. I believe "nice" leaders will be more sought-after than "hard-ass" leaders since insider video clips and blog posts exposing the wrath of tyrant CEOs will continue making the rounds on YouTube and elsewhere. Third, it will be more profitable to be ethical. Ethical decision making will no longer stem solely from a sturdy moral compass. Rather, it will be smart business. Reputation and transparency go hand-in-hand. Unethical leaders will never be able to shake the bad rap that will forever be attached to them in online reputation web sites.