I want to see more leaders that are open and transparent like Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. She recently published a book on women in the workplace titled Lean In. As a C-Suite executive, an easy option would have been to stay quiet on the subject. After all she is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. If she gets out there and speaks openly about gender in the workplace and being a working mom she will either be told she is too privileged to speak about the topic or that her story isn’t relevant to the average working woman.
Faced with those kinds of choices I’m surprised she even wanted to speak out. Why put yourself out there when you are a perfectly happy and successful executive? Her reasons vary but I don’t really care about her reasons.
I’m just happy to hear a leader talking openly. The fact that it is an executive at a leading Fortune 500 company? Even better. We rarely hear a senior leader talk so frankly and openly about their struggles. I want to see more of that.
I hope this trend continues for a number of reasons:
- Make the pedestal a little shorter – It’s about showing that the person leading your company/division/team is a human too. To many times we put the leaders of mega corporations or even our own team leader on a pedestal where they somehow do things “better” than the rest of us or have all the answers…which isn’t always true.
- People love honest leaders– Having a senior leader or your own manager acknowledge the struggles and relate to those with you is awesome. It makes that pedestal shorter and makes you feel like that person “gets it.”
- Leadership becomes more obtainable – when people start speaking openly and honestly it pulls back that mysterious curtain that surrounds “leaders.” That is a good thing. Seeing our leaders as human means we might see ourselves in that position.
None of the above requires a bestselling book and an appearance on 60 minutes. It is all stuff that we can start to cultivate in our own workplace. Look at your workplace or your community, there are leaders out there who are open, authentic and transparent, seek them out.
One person that immediately comes to mind is someone in our own space that is honest and open about himself as a leader and a person: Jay Kuhns. He is a fellow contributor to PIC and writes his own blog No Excuses HR. I had the pleasure of hearing him speak very openly and candidly about HR, leadership, and social media at the Minnesota State SHRM conference this past October. It was an inspiring experience to hear a senior leader in my field talk openly because it is so rare.
I hope this experience becomes less and less rare across all fields. We can get there by embracing transparency in our own lives. Don’t be the person who holds everything back. If you are frustrated and you can feel your team mates frustration acknowledge that and try to work around it. If you see another colleague struggling through something similar to your experience reach out to them, offer assistance or just a friendly ear to listen. If you want greater transparency, honesty and openness start acting that way.