The Downside of Genius

Brilliance has its costs. The smartest person in the room may be as insufferable as she is inspiring, and angst-ridden artists may introduce us to brave new ways of thinking.

Why Transparency Is Always the Best Leadership Policy

First and foremost, people want to do business with someone they trust.

Spin and I are good friends. As a former PR guy, for at least for part of my career, I became well acquainted with my own personal “Fifty Shades of Grey.” No sex (sorry), but quite a few shades of the truth. I also saw what happens to individuals and organizations when leaders spin too far into the wilderness without a moral compass. Let’s just say it’s a very long way home…

Now I’m not talking about a little relatively innocent “persuasive communication” here, which is a normal part of the business process, but about real intent to mislead on matters of substance. So just in case you may be (though I doubt you are!) seriously considering spinning financial results, or staff reductions (who invented the term “rightsizing” anyway?), or sales projections, or whatever suits your particular business needs at the moment, here are 10 simple reasons why transparency is always the best leadership policy.

There are an awful lot of smart people out there. Best not to underestimate them – whether they’re clients, employees, investors, competitors, reporters, regulators, etc. – and their capacity to see through obfuscation.

You can’t snow the snowman.  As we used to say in the PR biz. Even if you get something past most of the people most of the time, dollars to doughnuts you won’t get it past all of the people all of the time.

Credibility. First and foremost, people want to do business with someone they can trust.

Trust. Cousin to the point directly above. Built on credibility, trust is the foundation of all long-term business relationships. And who doesn’t want those?

People will follow someone they believe. They may also follow someone they have doubts about, but they’ll do so reluctantly and cautiously. Like a dog sleeping with one eye open…

Respect for senior leadership is a key element of employee engagement. Engaged employees are more emotionally committed to an organization and will work harder on its behalf.

Pride in an organization is another key element of employee engagement. Employees want to be part of a team they can believe, and believe in. Ample research supports these last two points.

Transparency is its own reward. Variant of the old Cicero saying, “Virtue is its own reward.”

From a practical pragmatic standpoint, it’s plain old good business. For all of the reasons noted above, transparency is good for your organization’s reputation. And a solid reputation is always good for business.

You’ll sleep better at night. Dishonesty is wicked stressful. And who wants more stress in their life?

This article first appeared at Forbes.com.

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The Downside of Genius