Leading with New Eyes

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.

3 comments on “Leading with New Eyes
  • I’m curious how introvert/extrovert personalities will play out through transparency. There’s been a lot of talk on how our “real self” is not represented on blogs and social networking sites. Then again, its debatable whether its expressed outside our homes as well.

    Being on the side of transparency seems easy but I’m baffled with all the resistance. Especially from companies. I run into it time and again in health care, but hopefully the adoption (though slow) of IT will change that. Hospitals tend to be 10 years behind the curve, but proponents of transparency like Paul Levy(and I mean releasing medical error rates to the public) at http://runningahospital.blogspot.com/ help.

  • As if by telepathy, I too had run my recent post `Dumbasses clamor for online privacy’ on similar lines (with Online bias). Excerpts –

    “Learn to handle online publicity. Tweak it to your advantage. Speak your mind and craft your unique online persona that you can never do offline because you get only a few fleeting moments of attention. Offline distractions are far too many (you could get nervy) and you are not sure of leaving great impressions. Get a good online headstart and follow it up by offline touch and feel. That’s how you get larger than life. The only risk here is, you are exposing to get kicked in the butt by some smartass. Have enough humor to absorb it and gain wits enough to riposte. That way you build a circle, if not relationships, with people you like. Be smart and use them to your advantage.”


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